1 March 2012
The Association GOLOS is implementing a long-term monitoring mission of the events of the presidential elections. This will be carried out by 48 long-term observers, by correspondents from the newspaper “Grazhdanskij golos” [Eng.: Citizen’s voice] and activists from the Association GOLOS who have completed an appropriate training programme. GOLOS sources its information from the media, from expert interviews with representatives of political parties, leaders of nongovernmental organisations and members of election commissions, as well as reports from citizens who have observed violations during the election process and informed representatives of GOLOS personally or via the “Map of violations”, a project run by the Association GOLOS.
During the election monitoring, the association is focusing its attention above all on the following aspects:
1. Protecting citizens’ electoral rights and ensuring conformity with the election procedures;
2. The work of the election commissions;
3. The use of administrative resources during the election process;
4. Guaranteeing equal opportunities for candidates and parties during the election campaign;
5. Adherence to the procedures for voting, vote-counting and the announcement of the election results.
This is the second or a series of statements, which should document the events of the election process. When the results of the elections are known, the Association GOLOS plans to present an analytical report, in which all documents and files received are to be compiled and analysed. In the reports, particular attention will be paid to violations of the principles of free and democratic elections during all phases of the election process. You are invited to familiarise yourself with the reports from GOLOS on previous elections at this address: http://www.golos.org/elections.
Findings and Conclusions
What distinguishes the present electoral campaign from that of the fall of 2011 is that the technologies for pressuring voters are more carefully organized, and they bring greater fears of publicity and public scandal. Furthermore, after the massive protests that arose from the 4 December 2011 State Duma elections, government officials seek on one hand to reduce the intensity of protest sentiments with promises to bring change to Russia's political system (draft legislation has been published on the law on political parties; the procedure for the electoral registration of candidates, specifically creating an
exemption from the required collection of signatures from representatives of political parties; the law on the election of governors; and a new draft law has been introduced on the elections of deputies of the State Duma) and on the other, to oppose representatives of the opposition by way of
a strong information campaign.
Isolated cases of open campaigning for Vladimir Putin by state officials have been documented, but it is significant that there are fewer examples of such in this campaign than there were in the fall 2011 campaign.
The main campaign is being conducted through the central television channels. This is where administrative resources are used to the maximum extent to indirectly campaign for Putin under the guise of covering his professional activities. At the same time, his refusal to participate in direct debates with his opponents creates an aura of singularity and detachment from the other electoral participants. All of the official privileges of being the prime minister have been fully utilized: a trip across the country, meetings with labor collectives, speeches on campaign matters and promises, media reports and coverage....
Undoubtedly, all of these privileges have been incorporated into Russian electoral legislation, as has been frequently discussed in GOLOS' reports. However, the administrative law clearly demarcates the limitations on the use of one's official position for personal gain. Just one example: was the rally that was held in Luzhniki Stadium exclusively as a campaign event for one candidate paid for by his election fund?!
Meanwhile, individual participants of protests have been subjected to pressure and intimidation. This is especially true in the regions, where independent media organizations, NGOs, and opposition representatives have all been subjected to pressure. Organized mass hysteria fueled by accusations that NGOs and opposition members have been working with foreign states has been widely broadcasted from the federal mass media to the regional level.
According to data coming in from the regions there remains a vicious practice of "planned targets," whereby the federal center informally sets goals for administrations on voter turnouts for the elections, and on the percentage of votes for the "necessary" candidate. Active signals are given for the compulsory participation of citizens in the elections, the receipt of absentee voter certificates, the organization of polling stations directly within businesses, and the declaration of 4 March as a working day... The electoral campaign in general is marked by many instances of "Black PR" against non-system opposition members, and against the registered presidential candidates. The Internet and city streets are replete with materials issued by citizens on their personal initiatives against Putin, the United Russia party, CEC chairman Vladimir Churov, etc.
Undoubtedly, this is the inverse side of the total official mass media domination of Putin's campaign and counter-campaign against the opposition.
In general, GOLOS Association believes that the negative tendencies of the fall 2011 campaign smoothly transitioned to the presidential election campaign, which was compounded by a harsh confrontation between adherents and opponents of one of the candidates and was deprived of normal political debates on the country's key problematic issues.