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01.02.2023, . 00:34

Overview Of Recommendations Contained In Draft Report Of The Inter-Governmental Working Group On Federal Election Reform

Below is a summarization of the 30 page draft report prepared by the Intragovernmental Working Group on Federal Electoral Reforms headed by CEC Secretary Alexander Veshniakov. This draft report will be the subject of State Duma hearings on the 4th of February dedicated to establishing the parameters as well as the mechanicms of amending existing election legislation and drafting new legislation devoted to campaign financing, the State Automated System (SAS) of elections, and political parties. As such, it introduces a framework for discussion and not necessarily a comprehensive set of recommendations. Copies of IFES Technical Analysis of the Presidential Elections and Recommendations for Reform were provided to members of the working group and IFES has been in consultation with select members representing the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation (CEC) and the State Duma Committee on Legal Reform on the issue of federal electoral reforms. Proposals forwarded in the Working Group's draft report which reflect recommendations (as found in the final publication of the «Technical Analysis . . .» ) provided by IFES are noted in italics. Legal and technical recommendations forsarded by IFES have been incorporated in existing laws on voter's rights and parliamentary and presidential legislation and the IFES Russia team looks forward to continued consultations with election officials and legislators pertaining to amendment of the electoral code and legislative drafting.

1. Recommendation that the Voting Right's Act be amended to more clearly define residency requirements for candidates in a manner which conforms with the «Federal Law on Rights of Russian Citizens to Freedom of Movement . . .» including distinction between permanent and predominant residence and a fixed formula for determining length of residency, in this case the end date being the day of a candidate's registration. Clarification of language and age (range) requirements for candidates should also be included in the Voting Right's Act and made consistent within federal legislation.

    IFES Recommendation: 5.1

2. Recommendation that the Voting Right's Act be amended to ensure the periodic conduct of elections according to some clear and consistent timetable and with responsibility for calling of elections (and liability for failing to do so or supplementary mechanisms for ensuring the conduct of elections) clearly delineated. This change is meant, in particular, to bring Subjects of the Russian Federation in compliance with democratic norms for the conduct of routine elections at the regional and municipal level.

3. Recommendation to adopt legislative provisions to deal with problems pertaining to the registration of soldiers and non-commissioned officers stationed outside the territory of the administrative district where he resided prior to being called up on active duty and does not reside the territory of the administrative district where he is presently stationed. This pertains specifically to passive and active electoral rights of officers and soldiers in regional and municipal elections as well as the rights of those persons to local representation.

4. Recommendation that the Voting Rights Act be amended to bring uniformity to the formation of lower level election commissions (SECs, DECs, TECs, and PSECs) particularly the process by which the proposals of public associations, elective bodies, and meetings of voters are considered; to enhance the role of political parties in the formation of election commissions; to eliminate meetings concerning the formation of election commissions from places of work, study, or residence; to enhance the professional capabilities of subordinate election commissions; to bolster the independence of election commissions at lower levels; to specify terms of election commission members and enumerate conditions under which members might be removed thereby reducing the probability of politically motivated changes; to tie the term of the DEC to that of the office or institution for which elections were conducted; to extend the term of the TECs and allow for one representatives to work on a permanent basis to facilitate post election appeals and requests and in light of the fact that municipal elections are occurring on an ongoing basis;

    IFES Recommendations: 3.8,3.10,4.9

5. Recommendation that the right of the CEC and the SECs to supervise and enforce observance of voter's rights in accordance with the Voting Rights Act be formulated more precisely; that these commissions be granted the right to repeal non-compliant decisions enacted by subordinate commissions regardless of the level, ie. non-federal, elections.

    IFES Recommendations: 3.7, 11.3

6. Recommendation that several regulations and instructions of the CEC, in particular those regarding the procedure for providing airtime on channels of State Television and on the uniform tabulation of election returns be incorporated into the body of election law (by including provisions of the latter, posting of protocols of election results by election commissions at all levels, for example, would become a legislative requirement as well as a host of other requirements related to observers and accountability of election commissions. According to the wording of the draft report, such a move is aimed an ensuring «maximum transparency» of the process).

    IFES Recommendations: 4.1,4.6,6.7, 10.28

7. Recommendation that Voting Rights Act be amended insofar that candidate nomination by institutions by limited to political parties and movements and that the criteria for classifying public associations as such be elaborated upon in stand-alone legislation on political parties. This is an attempt to bolster the role of political parties in the electoral process and the consolidation of serious political entities over time by eliminating the anomalous «electoral association.» It is proposed that an amended Voting Rights Act include a temporary definition of political parties (proposed defn. is included in the draft report) pending the adoption of a law on political parties.

    Recommendations: 5.12, 9.13

8. Recommendation for the improvement of the candidate nomination and registration process including clarification within federal legislation of whether nomination directly by voters implies candidate self-nomination with signatures collected in support of this declaration or, exclusively, nomination of candidates by groups of voters, or both; amendment of the Voting Rights Act in a manner which prescribes mandatory verification of signatures contained in candidate petitions; supplementing the law to stipulate not only the maximum number of required signatures but also the maximum number of signatures which will be accepted for consideration by election commissions and the establishment of a threshold for falsified signatures which if exceeded would bar the candidate from registration; development of more concrete and consistent practices concerning the acceptance of candidate registration documents as well as their refusal; establishment of administrative and/or criminal liability for falsification of signature petitions, particularly to include persons organizing and or producing fraudulent lists as distinct from authorized candidate representatives; prohibition of collection of signatures in places of employment and subsequent decrease in the total number of signatures required for registration; release of political entities already holding mandates in legislative bodies, eg. electoral associations and blocs surpassing the 5% threshold in the State Duma, and incumbent candidates (including executives) from the requirement of collecting signatures; consideration of the proposal that a financial deposit be accepted in lieu of a signature petition.

    IFES Recommendations: 5.5,5.8

9. Amendment of the Voting Rights Act to stipulate that candidates nominated as part of parties lists can receive and utilize only financial resources of the nominating electoral association or bloc and are not entitled to set up separate electoral funds; expanded language concerning prohibitions on anonymous donations and donations through third persons; introduction of additional punitive measures for violation of campaign finance regulations, in particular establishing donor liability; clarification of enforcement measures concerning remuneration for goods and services outside the official electoral fund of the candidate or political entity; proposal that the State not provide financial subsidies to any candidate for the purposes of pre-election campaigning and that State support be limited to free airtime, free travel throughout the territory of the RF, and guarantees of compensation for a leave of absence granted by their employers; recommendation that stand-alone legislation on the topic of campaign finance be adopted.

    IFES Recommendations: 7.1, 7.5, 7.10

10. As executive authorities, heads of legislatures, deputies, judges and ministers are immune Trom release from their official duties upon registration as a candidate (this according to the «Federal Law on the Principles of Government Service . . ._) and as abuse of office for campaign purposes continues, it is recommended that administrative responsibility of officials for use of their official position for campaign advantage be established including the possibility of withdrawal of candidate registration; incorporation into law a list of possible breaches of incumbency which are not allowed in accordance with the law.

    IFES Recommendation: 7.4

11. Recommendation that the norms concerning pre-election campaigning in the mass media be formulated in more detail including provisions establishing the ratio between time period allotted for pre-election campaigning in the state and independent media; the ratio between free and paid air time, the rights of voters to campaign on behalf of candidates or party list via state-owned mass media; the right of candidates to determine the editorial content of their airtime as well as the right of voters to information about the candidate and his/her platform; and the question of who pays for «free» airtime: election commissions or the state media outlet?

    IFES Recommendations: 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.7, 7.2

12. It is recommended that the criteria for which elections can be declared null and void be expanded to include: violation of campaign rules by candidates for elective office, violation of voter's rights at any stage during the pre-election campaign, and expansion of the right to declare elections invalid. It is also recommended that the implication of variable turn-out thresholds, particularly as they pertain to persons indirectly elected to the upper house of Parliament, on the uniformity of voter's rights on the territory of the Russian Federation be taken into consideration.

NOTE: IFES experts find this recommendation the most disconcerting of the draft report, as Western democracies do not typically invalidate elections unless fraud is determined to have altered the outcome of the election (which under current Russian legislation is the only condition upon which elections can be invalidated, although elections are also ruled as note having taken place if turnout thresholds are not met). IFES is concerned that in the current political environment the high occurance of campaign period violations by candidates and political entities or purposeful manipulation of the pre-election campaign for the specific purpose of having elections declared invalid could result in wide-spread invalidation of elections. IFES recommends that the most prudent course of action is to specify the nature of, liability for, responsible enforcement entity to oversee, and penalties for violations of voter's rights and rules governing the election campaign be stipulated in law and enforced in practice.

13. It is recommended that districting principles not be changed to accommodate proposals that all electoral districts be equal, thereby infringing upon the rights on indigenous and small ethnic groups, nor solely based on the boundaries of territorial units which does not take into account the principle of «approximate» equality of electoral districts.

14. In order to better accommodate freedom of movement of citizens within the Russian Federation while fully complying with the legal requirement that voter can appear on only one voter registry, the following modifications and amendments are recommended to federal election legislation: provision of an explanation of inclusion of a citizen in a voter list if not his/her permanent or predominant place of residence; addition of voters to special list based on the provision of absentee voting certificates; establishment of a system whereby Russian citizens residing abroad are registered to vote based on their request and providing they meet legal requirements as well as clarification of the list of documents which will be accepted as forms of voter ID; application of the SAS for computerization of voter registration as a means of facilitating the updating of voter rolls and flagging dual entries.

    IFES Recommendations: 9.5, 9.7, 13.1, 10.24

15. Recommendation that it is necessary to establish in law responsibility for non-compliance with the Voting Rights Act and introduction of means of improving enforcement mechanisms of higher level election commissions in this regard.

    IFES Recommendations: 3.7, 11.3

16. Recommendation that Law on Election of Deputies to the State Duma and the Law on Election of the President be brought into full uniformity and that additional systemic changes be made to these laws, including: a review of the current system of mixed representation and its ramifications for the establishment of a multi-party system in Russia as well as some long term thought about the evolution of Russia's representational system to either a fully proportional one or a fully majoritarian one; possible adjustment of the 5% threshold required for obtaining a mandate in the State Duma.

    See IFES Study: «Opportunities for Innovation in Electing Legislatures of the Russian Federation»

17. Recommend that the adjudication of grievances process by reformed to establish a statute of limitations for election related disputes; to clarify the jurisdiction of the courts in respect to decisions of election commissions and to grant election commissions right to challenge unlawful decisions of officials which violate the electoral rights of citizens.

    IFES Recommendations: 11.1, 11.2, 11.4, 11.5, 11.6

18. Recommendation that several provisions of the previous draft law on «Public Control Over the Conduct of Elections . . .» (proposed by not adopted during the presidential election campaign in the Spring of 1996) be considered for inclusion in proposed amendments to federal election legislation. Specifically, to elaborate upon the rights of observers, establish responsibility of officials for violation of rights of observers and deliberative voting members of election commissions, such as the refusal to provide a certified copy of the official protocol of election results.

    IFES Recommendations: 3.3, 4.1, 4.6, 4.12, 10.28, 10.29, 10.30

19. Recommends that stand-alone legislation be adopted on campaign financing which more clearly addresses such issues spending outside of the electoral fund and which expands regulation and enforcement to the period preceding the registration of candidates and therefore the establishment of the electoral funds, but clearly involves campaign expenditures;.

    IFES Recommendations: 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.7, 7.10

20. Recommendation that stand-along legislation also be adopted to govern the operation of the SAS which would establish the legal status of the system as well as its organizational structure and which would establish ownership; which would define the legal status of system administrators; establish rules for the formation and use of databanks at each stage of the election campaign; establish rules for accessing information stored in databanks as well as to prevent unauthorized access and responsibility for violation of these rules; to regulate any ensuing problems associated with public and state control over the system, provide for the use of automation complexes.

    IFES Recommendations: 10.23, 10.24, 10.26

21. Recommends amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation which would lay down therein the principles of universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot, establish the age upon which citizens attain active electoral right and possible additional grounds upon which passive electoral right may be gained thereby eliminating circumstances whereby constitutions of the Subjects of the RF «override» the guarantees provided for in the Voting Rights Act.

22. Recommended the adoption of a special technical program for the improvement of federal election legislation which would establish deadlines for various phases of work and guidelines for formation a diversified team of experts and practitioners tasked with this purposed, as well as mechanisms for soliciting input beyond this core group.

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