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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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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