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Results of the Project “Citizen Observer”

Vera Vasilieva, 08/12/11


· Electoral rights  · Moscow city & Moscow region

On 7 December 2011 a press conference was held at the Moscow office of Memorial Human Rights Centre to present the results of the project “Citizen-Observer”. The data provided by the speakers bear witness to widespread electoral fraud during the elections to the State Duma.

The project conducted independent observation of the recent 4 December State Duma elections. Project participants were present as observers from political parties and media reporters throughout the day at hundreds of polling stations in Moscow and in nearly 700 polling stations in the regions.

The coordinating headquarters of the project received 300 reports of violations at polling stations and intimidation of observers. Project participants submitted numerous formal complaints to the election officials at the polling stations and to electoral committees at district level. They also made several complaints to prosecutors with regard to serious violations of the law. At a number of polling stations project participants successfully prevented violations.

At the press conference the project was presented by independent political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin, chairman of the Memorial Human Rights Centre Oleg Orlov, coordinator of the project’s regional section Mikhail Shneider, mobile group coordinator Yuliya Drogova, project press spokesman Matvei Petukhov and a representative of the Golos Association, Grigory Melkonyants.

“United Russia gained around 30% of the vote in Moscow. The 50% result is fraudulent. These votes have been stolen from other parties and we have reliable evidence to prove it,” said Dmitry Oreshkin.

Oreshkin presented statistical data gathered by the observers. Although the count conducted by the project has not been completed he was certain there would not be any substantive changes to the results.

According to this count, United Russia gained 26% of the vote, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) 24.8%, A Just Russia 17.%, Yabloko 14.4%, the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) 12.7%, Russia's Patriots 1.8 % and the Right Cause 1%.

2.2% of the ballots were spoiled and the turnout was 61.5%.

It is worth noting that overall the data gathered by the Citizen-Observer project tally with official figures with regard to the few polling stations in Moscow where computerized systems for processing ballots had been installed.

“It is possible to falsify the results in polling stations where votes are cast through scanners but it is much more difficult. You cannot stuff a bunch of ballots into these scanners, you have to feed the ballots into the machines individually, so that they can be scanned and digested. Nobody likes doing that,” Oreshkin explained.

According to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), United Russia gained a total of 46.6% votes in Moscow as a whole, whereas in polling stations equipped with scanners the party gained only 29.4%. The CPRF gained a total of 19.3% of votes compared with 23.9% in polling stations where scanners were used.

Oreshkin cited another striking example. An observer from the project was present at polling stations Nos. 951 and 954, located in School No. 368 in Moscow. In these two polling stations United Russia gained 26.3% and 26.6% of the vote. At the neighbouring School No. 1688, where polling stations Nos. 955, 956 and 957 were located, but no observers were present, United Russia gained 92%, 94% and 89.86 % of the vote.

In polling stations without observers Yabloko received a hundred times fewer votes than in those were observers were present.

“The presence of observers reduced the instances of fraud by half. We will publish all this information. And it will be crystal clear to everyone what this regime and what United Russia are all about,” Dmitry Oreshkin summed.

“The key thing our campaign has achieved is to show that Russia has changed. I regard the fact that the people's spirits have been lifted as highly significant; people have started to believe in their own power,” said Grigory Melkonyants, representing Golos, the organization protecting voters' rights, summing up the results of the observation.

“People are taking notice of these violations; they can no longer be hidden. This is the first time we've encountered such enormous support from the citizens. That's the main outcome,” Melkonyants said.

The main task now, Melkonyants believes, is “to show that we can unite and jointly bring about fair elections. This is something not just for Golos, it's ordinary people who can achieve this.”

Golos proposes a series of activities to achieve this goal.

Specifically, the human rights organization, in conjunction with the internet publication plans to publish a map of the election results.

In addition, everyone can find the official election results for their district on the Central Electoral Commission website, print them out and post them at the entrance to their block:

“If a particular party is shown as having obtained zero per cent and your whole family cast their vote for that party, it's obvious that the fairness of the ballot count is under question. Everyone can recall the time of the election for the Moscow City Duma, when at the local polling station where Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin cast his vote his party gained zero per cent.”

Grigory Melkonyants described various types of violation that the observers had come across:

“Electoral commission records have been rewritten.

In a number of cases leaders of the electoral commissions didn't distribute verified copies of the records but took them away to the offices of higher electoral commissions. When they returned from there, the records contained completely different figures. Sometimes they dragged out the process of counting. They kept delaying the start waiting for the observers to get tired and leave.”

Grigory Melkonyants stressed that the unprecedented pressure on Golos resulted from the fact that observing the elections had proved to be effective.

“We have shown we can not only detect violations but also resist them.”

The organisation intends to appeal against the verdict recently passed against Golos.

Matvey Petukhov also described various types of election violation:

“In a large number of polling stations where our observers were present, even if we were not able to prevent them, we at least recorded the so-called ‘carousels’ and ballot stuffing.

There have also been some rather unusual violations. For example, in one polling station people on the voting list were registered at 12 Lobachevsky Street, an address where, in fact, a nursery school is located.

It is a criminal offence to forge voting lists. We immediately reported it to the police and an investigation has been launched.”

However, Matvey Petukhov suspects that it was not possible to identify every violation:

“Normally a few dozen people turn up to vote with a certificate releasing them to vote away from the place where they are registered. In one polling station 1,800 people came to vote on this basis. It's not quite clear who those people were. Our observers were unable to distinguish their certificates from genuine ones.”

However, the most frequent problem the project faced was the illegal practice of eviction or attempts at evicting observers.

For example, Oleg Orlov was evicted from polling station No. 3000 in Moscow's Tushino district, allegedly “because of numerous reprimands and complaints”. However, the human rights defender stated he had received no reprimands or complaints.

Representatives of the KPRF and Novaya Gazeta were also removed from the same polling station.

“However, a Yabloko representative with a casting vote was allowed to stay, as was a media observer, both with video cameras. They were later joined by a KPRF Duma candidate, who also brought a camera. The electoral commission's desk was surrounded by cameras from three sides. Afterwards, when a colleague phoned me late in the evening and told me the results it was clear that no fraud had occurred at the polling station,” Oleg Orlov pointed out.

According to official figures, at this polling station United Russia received 21%, CPRF 29%, A Just Russia 18%, Yabloko 13%, LDPR 11%, Russia's Patriots 2% and Right Cause 1%.

In conclusion, the chair of Memorial Human Rights Centre said he was confident that the dilemma of whether to take part in the election or not, which had led to many heated arguments during the election campaign, had now been resolved:

“In the course of this mass observation campaign we were able to witness an unprecedented level of civic sentiment. We have seen a Russia that has finally awoken.”

Yulia Drogova coordinated the mobile groups comprising a driver and a lawyer and, in some cases, a journalist. The appearance of these specialists at polling stations frequently helped to prevent the illegal eviction of observers.

The coordinator admitted that the number of these groups proved inadequate. That is why members of the Citizen-Observer project plan to increase their number during the forthcoming presidential election.

In his turn Mikhail Shneider spoke about the results of election observation in the regions:

“Across the country United Russia gained a maximum of 30% in ‘clean’ polling stations.”

He also cited an example of fraud at polling station No. 837 at the Nevinnomysk factory in Stavropol Territory.

LDPR gained 106 votes according to the electoral commission record, but only 56 votes according to figures issued by the CEC. According to the data recorded by the local electoral commission 161 voters cast their vote for the KPRF compared to only 52 according to the CEC figures. While the local record shows Yabloko gaining 35 votes, the CEC claims it gained 0 votes. The result of United Russia, on the other hand, which received 217 votes, was bumped up to 418 votes.

Mikhail Shneider proposed that a national public opinion poll be carried out on 17 December in order to find out how many voters really did cast their vote for United Russia and how many of them intended to vote for Vladimir Putin in the presidential election on 4 March 2012.



Rights in Russia,
12 Dec 2011, 12:26