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Indefinite Hunger Strike against Election Results Declared in Astrakhan

Source: (info), 16/03/12

· Election rights  · Public protests  · Astrakhan region

In Astrakhan on 15 March, six civic activists went to the Oblast's Electoral Commission where they announced that they were going on an indefinite hunger strike. As journalist Dmitry Florin reported, the action is a protest against violations that took place during the elections on 4 March.

Among those taking part in the protest are Astrakhan Oblast Duma Deputy Aleksandr Kamanin, Evgeny Dunaev the former Chairman of the Astrakhan City Council, journalists and members of local electoral commissions. They read out an address to the Astrakhan Electoral Commission regarding the commencement of their unprecedented protest - an indefinite political hunger strike.

The hunger strikers have already sent an address to the President, the Chairman of the Government, the Russian Minister of the Interior, the Chief Prosecutor and the Chairman of the Russian Central Electoral Commission. In this address they stated that the mass violations of the electoral law in the December 2011 elections had provoked the indignation of voters from all regions of the country, but that polling day on 4 March had been transformed into an unmitigated procession of electoral law violations.

The address stated that it had been established and documented at 116 of the 203 polling stations in Astrakhan that observers and journalists had been refused their right to be shown the voting papers cast, to do a recount of the votes, and to see the protocols for the ballot results. The actions of the police are worthy of a separate investigation. They openly colluded in breaching the law, ignored the requests of observers to intervene and defend the law and in many instances carried out the orders of the Chairs of polling stations to remove observers, journalists, candidates for deputy and Russian State Duma deputies.

According to correspondent Sofia Mikitik, the hunger strikers are demanding the dismissal of the current members of Astrakhan's regional and city electoral commissions and the Astrakhan Oblast Electoral Commission, and that the heads of these bodies be brought to trial.

They are also demanding that the electoral results for the Astrakhan City Duma and for the head of the region be annulled. Among other demands are that there be an investigation into the actions of police on 4 March 2012 at the local and regional electoral commissions.

Around 20 police officers were present at the Astrakhan Electoral Commission blocking the doors of the Electoral Commission. The police refused journalists access to the hunger strikers claiming that they lacked the relevant accreditation and editorial instructions. Sympathetic Astrakhan citizens who had heard what was happening began to arrive at the building of the Oblast Duma where the Electoral Commission is located.

A similar hunger strike was held in Astrakhan after the Oblast Duma elections in March 2010.