Judge Throws Out Testimony Backing Yabloko Candidates
Published: February 13, 2009 (Issue # 1448)
A judge at the Moskovsky District Court on Wednesday refused to accept testimony from twenty local residents whose signatures backing liberal candidates in the municipal elections scheduled for March 1 had been rejected as being forged or unverifiable.
The judge said that the citizens had no grounds to question the qualifications or judgment of the expert who had declared the signatures unverifiable or forged.
“This outrageous decision has destroyed what little hope I had left for what remains of democratic principles and fair trials in Russia,” said Tatyana Kondratkova, whose signature was declared false. “A human being has fewer rights and gets less respect than the opinion of their signatures expert. I’m bewildered. I’ve now learnt through personal experience that everything we hear every day from the officials about their respect for the Russian Constitution is nothing but hot air.”
Kondratkova and other residents whose testimonies were rejected are preparing an appeal to the City Court, and, if necessary, to the Constitutional Court.
Maxim Reznik, head of the St. Petersburg branch of the democratic party Yabloko said people’s rights are being “blatantly and vigorously abused” in the current election campaign.
To register for a municipal election, a candidate must provide several dozen signatures from supporters living in the district in which they plan to stand for election. The majority of Yabloko candidates have been denied registration as the result of state experts declaring their supporters’ signatures to be forgeries.
“It only takes a word from an expert. There is no required proof or criteria for deeming a signature fake, so absolutely any signature can be declared unusable in this way,” said Reznik.
Of 100 candidates put forward by the Yabloko party for the municipal elections, only 35 have been officially registered. In the meantime, only 0.8 percent of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party’s candidates have been denied registration for the elections.
“The only plausible explanation for the plight of our candidates is that the district election commissions must have received direct political orders from City Hall to take as many liberals out of the elections as possible,” Reznik said. “We have always been the biggest troublemakers, asking tough questions and protesting against corrupt decisions. The lawlessness that reigns in Russia allows officials to pursue their vendettas against political opponents.”
Activists from the St. Petersburg branch of Yabloko are organizing a protest event on Saturday at 5 p.m. outside the Yunost cinema at Chernaya Rechka metro station to voice their outrage at a wide series of infringements of the rights of the democrat candidates in the current election campaign.
Democrat candidates have been experiencing difficulties in registering for local elections in recent years. Worse, they claim that they have been marginalized and now have to resort to street politics in order to be heard.
In the spring of 2008, Yabloko, the only major political party represented in the Legislative Assembly to oppose City Hall’s policies, was excluded from elections to the assembly amid claims that the local government was silencing its most vocal critic. No liberal candidates are currently represented in the city parliament.