FAO:

Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

In connection to violations committed by the Moscow executive authorities in providing access for independent candidates to the election to the Moscow City Council (Duma), persecution of citizens of the Russian Federation for their intention to run in the elections all over the country, we appeal to take a strong stance towards this situation, discuss it with the representatives of further member states of the Council of Europe, call other international organisations to take their position and include information on the violations in the forthcoming report on the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government by the Russian Federation.

The events of the recent weeks related to the election campaign to the Moscow City Duma[1] prove the determination of authorities to deny the right of independent candidates to run for the election planned for 8 September 2019. Moreover, the authorities also declare their intent to firmly react to any protest attempts on the part of the candidates and their supporters.

The legal requirement to collect signatures of 3% of the voters from a given electoral district, binding only for non-party candidates, is a difficult barrier for electoral rights and makes competition between independent candidates and candidates associated with authorities uneven from the very start. Furthermore, the Moscow city authorities sabotage recognition of validity of signatures, which have been collected by independent candidates. Among them are Yulia Galiamina, Dmitri Gudkov, Liubov Sobol, Konstantin Yankauskas and Ilia Yashin. All of them were refused to register as candidates[2].

On 25 July 2019, the Moscow police searched homes of independent candidates and summoned many to interrogations, some of the participants of one-person pickets were detained. The authorities opened several criminal cases based on calls for a protest in front of the Mayor’s Office in Moscow on 27 July 2019 and an alleged disturbance of work of the Moscow City Election Commission.

Unfortunately, the situation in Moscow is not a unique case of violations against independent candidates. In St. Petersburg, where self-government elections are scheduled for the same date, 8 September, queues in election commissions were observed as well, while the registration of independent candidates was refused under dubious conditions. Only after a series of protests and a personal concern expressed by Ella Pamfilova, Head of the Central Election Commission, a part of registration refusals was cancelled[3]. Violations of electoral rights of the citizens have been also observed during the registration of candidates ahead of the election to the Irkutsk City Duma[4].

It is important that the process of the verification of signatures and the access to the elections takes place in a very open manner and provides for equal admission conditions for all candidates. However, the authorities, recognising a part of the collected signatures as invalid and refusing some candidates to register, do not take into account the arguments of the candidates and their voters about the authenticity of the collected signatures, do not enter into dialogue and insist on applying unclear and closed procedures. In particular, candidates and their representatives are not allowed to attend sessions of district election commissions checking voters’ lists submitted by candidates, while verification of signatures is carried out in a secret mode and accompanied by multiple violations.

According to the Golos Movement, the system of registering candidates based on collecting signatures of voters contradicts in its current form the basic principles of free elections and makes it possible to radically distort the will of voters by preventing specific candidates from participating in the elections. Due to excessive requirements regarding the number of signatures, arbitrariness and non-transparency of signature verification procedures, the institution of collecting signatures has become an instrument for the administrative regulation of who may be admitted to the election and who may not and requires an urgent reform.

In their report upon the second visit to the Russian Federation on 5-7 March 2019, rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities mentioned a negative role of these restrictions and the necessity to drop the requirement of collecting a big number of signatures by the candidates representing non-parliamentary parties.

Legislation and unlawful practices by the authorities of the Russian Federation regarding the elections should become a subject to an international discussion and be evaluated by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as well as by other international organisations.

01.08.2019

Signatories (ranged according to the incoming date):

  1. Maria Charmast, For Free Russia Association, Warsaw, Poland
  2. Alexander Verkhovskiy, Russia
  3. Andrey Suslov, Russia
  4. Viktor Yukechev, Institute on Development of the Press – Siberia, „Tak-Tak-Tak” Foundation, Russia
  5. Tatiana Dorutina, Member organisation of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum
  6. Anton Khvostov, Centre for Social, Legal, and Environmental initiatives, Saratov, Russia
  7. Ella Poliakova, Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint-Petersburg, Russia
  8. Andrey Kalikh, Transborder Corruption Archive, Russia
  9. Elena Shakhova, „Citizens’s Watch”, Saint-Petersburg, Russia
  10. Pavel Havlicek, Institute for International Affairs, Prague, Czech Republic
  11. Olga Gulina, RUSMPI UG Institute on Migration Policy, Berlin, Germany
  12. Sergey Beliayev, Association „Sutiazhnik”, Russia
  13. Grigorij Pasko, Journalist, Investigative Journalists’ Association Fund 19/29, Russia
  14. Lubov Moseeva-Helie, Human Rights Movement, Russia
  15. Karol Bijoś, Fundacja Odpowiedzialna Polityka Polska
  16. Grigorij Winter, Human Rights Movement, Vologda, Russia;
  17. Elena Shukayeva, Correspondent at „Radio Svoboda” and „Novaya Gazeta – Ural”
  18. Maria Savitskaya, Russia
  19. Danila Gulin, Russia
  20. Arkady Volgin, Russia
  21. Vladimir Lagutov, Novocherkassk, Russia
  22. Larisa Tolmacheva, Russia
  23. Irina Gordeeva, Moscow, Russia
  24. Ludmila Kuzmina, Samara, Russia
  25. Christina Riek, EU-Russia Legal Dialogue, Berlin, German
  26. Marie Nikolskaya, Russia
  27. Stefan Melle, DRA, Germany
  28. Elena Podoynicina, Russia
  29. Yuri Dzhibladze, Centre for Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia
  30. Anna Zagordan, Russia
  31. Ruslan Shulga, Moscow, Russia
  32. Anastasiia Sergeeva, For Free Russia Association, Poland
  33. Tatiana Kovaleva, For Free Russia Association, Poland
  34. Olga Novak
  35. Maksim Lebedev
  36. Evgeny Shitikov
  37. Margarita Leontieva
  38. Olga Ivanova
  39. Ivan Solovev
  40. Board of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

[1] See https://www.economist.com/europe/2019/07/25/moscows-protests-are-inspired-by-the-thuggery-of-the-kremlin for particularities

[2] According to the Moscow City Election Commission, 233 candidates have been registered as of 18 July 2019, among them 130 representing parliamentary parties and, hence, having a preference and 103 those, who managed to collect signatures, while 57 candidates were turned down. See https://meduza.io/en/news/2019/07/17/in-moscow-city-duma-race-that-has-inspired-daily-protests-233-candidates-are-permitted-to-register-while-57-are-rejected for particularities.

[3] See www.interfax.ru/russia/669723 (in Russian)

[4] See www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/143572 (in Russian)