Stanislav Andreichuk, “Golos” Movement
On 17-19 September, 2021, parliamentary elections were held in Russia. According to official data, the United Russia party received about 50% of the votes on party lists and won an overwhelming majority of single-mandate constituencies — the party will again have a constitutional majority in parliament.
But there is no reason to trust the official data. A statistical analysis of the results shows that United Russia received about 14 million “anomalous” votes, and the real results should be about 31 – 33 percent of the vote. The data sent by observers to “Golos” – the movement for the protection of the voters’ rights – show similar results — about 30 – 35 percent. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) was to receive about 27 – 30 percent. It should be noted that the course of the campaign itself spoke of the approximate equality of these political parties — in terms of the number of reactions to posts with their mention in social media, they stayed alongside and with a large margin from the rest of the election participants for almost the entire campaign.
But even this 30 – 35 percent was obtained under unfair and unfree competition.
Firstly, this time the right of citizens to be elected was significantly limited: in May 2020, the defeat of the eligibility to be elected was further extended to about fifty criminal and administrative offences, and in June 2021, amendments were made to prohibit persons involved in the activity of “extremist” organisations, including the structures of supporters of Alexei Navalny, to run for the elections. As a result, according to Golos’s calculations, by the beginning of the elections, 9 million people in Russia were deprived of their passive electoral right.
Secondly, the principle of equal rights of candidates and parties to be presented in the media was not observed throughout the campaign. The number of references to United Russia on five main TV channels was 4 or 5 times higher than the number of references to the Communist Party, their principal opponents (in general, according to this indicator, United Russia was equal to all the other 13 parties participating in the elections combined). All this was accompanied by pressure on independent media and journalists. During the election campaign, 27 individuals and organisations, including 20 individual journalists, as well as such significant media as Meduza and the Dozhd TV channel, were recognised as “foreign agents”, while the “Project”, another important media outlet, was declared an undesirable organisation.
At the same time, it should be noted that the space of social media remained much freer, and it was this space that allowed the opposition to effectively promote their opinion. This is evident from the increase in the number of references to the “Smart Voting” campaign on social media. Unfortunately, in the last days of the campaign, Western IT giants came out on the side of the state censorship, blocking the “Smart Voting” app in their stores, and even trying to block Google docs where “Smart Voting” lists were published.
The third significant problem was the massive coercion of citizens to vote. This became especially noticeable on 17 September, the first day of voting, when — early in the morning of a working day — huge queues of voters lined up near the polling stations. In addition, people were massively forced to register to participate in online voting. This was a particular problem, because in the case of online voting people feel even more dependent — they have no confidence that the electronic system really keeps the privacy of expression of will.
The voting days were accompanied by “traditional” problems: falsifications and pressure on observers (including forceful actions). Added to these long-standing problems this year was the matter of online voting, which is completely beyond the control of society, and multi-day voting, which also makes it extremely difficult to control the integrity of elections.
All this allows us to say that the current distribution of seats in parliament does not reflect the real will of the voters.