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Activists Urged to Become Elections Officials

Published: January 23, 2013 (Issue # 1743)



  • Watchdogs say it’s vital that independent activists committed to fair elections find their way onto local commissions.
    Photo: alexandra astakhova / vedomosti

MOSCOW — A presidential election in Russia isn’t scheduled for another five years, but the people who will run the polling stations and count the ballots are already being selected.

Regional elections officials have until April 30 to form more than 90,000 local elections commissions nationwide — one for every polling station — whose members will serve five-year terms under a new law that elections watchdogs said is designed to protect the ruling party.

Given widespread allegations of fraud during State Duma elections in December 2011, often involving local elections officials, they say it is critical that independent activists committed to fair elections find their way onto local commissions.

Even one honest commission member is enough to “jam the vote-rigging machine,” said Roman Udot, head of monitoring at Golos, a nongovernmental elections watchdog.

Golos is one of several groups that have recruited thousands of volunteers to serve on the commissions, which have traditionally consisted of state employees and members of government-friendly civic groups handpicked for their loyalty, not for their democratic scruples, Udot said.

The new recruits, energized by the past year’s pro-democracy movement, which the 2011 election scandal helped to spark, will be placed on commissions mainly via the Communist Party and A Just Russia, parliamentary parties with the right to one spot on each commission.

As commission members, they’ll have access to voting documents as well as more clout than an observer, a significant number of whom said they were shooed away from polling stations during the Duma elections.

They can also influence other commission members, refuse to certify election results and offer dissenting opinions that can be used to challenge vote tallies.

Due to the new five-year rule, commissions chosen in the next few months will administer Duma elections in 2016, the presidential election in 2018, and gubernatorial and other local races.

Close attention will likely be paid to city legislative and mayoral elections in Moscow, expected next year and in 2015, respectively, given the particularly fervent opposition activism in the capital.

Georgy Alburov, of the opposition election-monitoring group Rosvybory, said he expects enough volunteers to cover every one of Moscow’s 3,400 voting stations.

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Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.