Report on local and regional elections in the Federation of Russia, 17 December 1995
Elections for local councils and regional assemblies have taken place intermittently over the last 18 months in the Federation of Russia. All are due to be completed by the end .of 1996.
So far, approximately half the regional assemblies have been elected. Concerning local authorities, only 42 municipalities have had direct elections for their councils. Appendix 1 gives a list.
On 17 December 1995 - the day of election of Federal bodies - there were no elections taking place for regional assemblies and, in only a very small number, for local councils. However, there were a number of elections taking place simultaneously for the Heads of Administration in a number of regions (the Governor), i.e. in places where the Governor had been appointed but not subsequently elected and, similarly, for Heads of Administration in a number of municipalities.
Accordingly, the Standing Committee, at its meeting on 21 November, agreed to send a small observer delegation. Following this decision, an invitation was received from the region of Moscow and that of Nizhni Novgorod for a delegation of the CLRAE to be present in the Federation of Russia from 15 to 18 December in order to observe the elections taking place for the positions of:
· Head of Administration in the Region of Moscow (Governor)
· Head of the Administration in the City of Nizhni Novgorod
· Head of the Regional Administration in Nizhni Novgorod (Governor)
The delegation was composed as follows:
I. Mrs Olga Bennett (Councillor, Dublin Corporation, Ireland)
II. Mr Ken Bodfish (Deputy Leader of East Sussex County Council, United Kingdom)
III. Mr Jacques-Médéric Chevrot (Chairman of the International Relations Committee of the Franche-Comté Regional Council, France).
They were accompanied by Mr Richard Hartley from the CLRAE Secretariat.
The delegation divided as follows: Mrs Bennett and Mr Chevrot remained in Moscow; Mr Bodfish and Mr Hartley, having arrived in Moscow, continued to Nizhni Novgorod, travelling to and from the region by overnight train.
In Russia, the practical arrangements were made, through the Foreign Office of the Federation of Russia, with the regional administrations of Moscow and Nizhni Novgorod. In Nizhni Novgorod, particularly active and helpful was the Mayor of Kstovo, Mr Boliak, a member of the Russian special guest delegation to the CLRAE and member of the Standing Committee.
The elections and 1programme of the delegation
Elections for the positions in question were by absolute majority, i.e. a candidate to have more than 50% in the first round. If not, a second round would be organised a month later on the basis of a simple majority.
a. Moscow Region
In the region of Moscow, there were six candidates for the election of the Governor:
MM Oleg Antonov, Valery Galchenko, Victor Dorkin, Vyacheslav Kiselev,"Anatoly Tyazhlov and Valery Chourilov. The favourite was considered to be the incumbent Governor, Mr Tyazhlov, appointed by the President of Russia two years ago. The regional assembly in Moscow was elected two years ago.
The delegation saw one candidate, Mr Galchenko; representatives of the regional Electoral Commission; representatives of the Regional Administration of Moscow and representatives of one of the districts of the Region, Mytishi.
The delegation would have wished to have seen more candidates and/or representatives of parties than was possible. It also felt that a greater measure of independence would have been desirable. For example, representatives of the Regional Administration accompanied the delegation on their visits to polling stations, although this was probably meant principally as a courtesy gesture.
b. Region of Nizhni NovRorod
In the Region of Nizhni Novgorod, there were four candidates for the post of Governor:
MM Maslov, Nemsov (incumbent Head), Rasteriev and Sokolov.
The favourite for election was Mr Nemsov, a young politician who has attracted a substantial national reputation as an energetic reformer. The Regional Assembly, as with Moscow, had been elected two years ago.
For the City of Nizhni Novgorod, there were four candidates:
MM Skliarov (incumbent Head), Chechevichkin, Bedniakov and Kamaldinov.
As in Moscow, the delegation regretted that it could not see more than one of the eight candidates contesting the two elections, only managing to see one (for the City), Mr Kamaldinov.
However, the delegation did see the first Deputy Governor of the Region; the Chairman of the Electoral Commissions for the Region and the City; the Chairman of the Regional Assembly and a number of candidates for the Federal elections.
On the Sunday, the delegation visited approximately 12 polling stations of different types:- in industrial, military, residential and outlying rural areas.
In the light of the various discussions and visits to polling stations, the delegation concluded that the elections had been run efficiently; that no major shortcoming or criticism was observed or could be made and that the elections respected accepted democratic procedures and standards.
The electoral lists were up-to-date. Where voters turned up, but who were not on the electoral lists, on-the-spot arrangements could be made, provided that they were in possession of the necessary identity documents.
The ballot sheets were all presented properly, clearly and objectively, Members of the electoral teams in the polling stations knew what they had to do with unused ballot papers and indeed were fully familiar with all practical and procedural arrangements. The ballot boxes had been correctly inspected and sealed. There were facilities for voting by ill or handicapped persons (itinerant ballot boxes).
Observers representing candidates and parties were present in virtually all of the polling stations visited and expressed themselves satisfied with arrangements.
There was, inevitably, the characteristic Russian festive sprit in polling stations, with music, sale of food and drink etc. Voters often discussed their preferences in small groups in the polling stations and, even in the voting booths, there were occasionally couples or two or even more - members of a family discussing options and voting together. The delegation .did not feel this was serious, however.
Another positive aspect was the clear interest shown by voters in the regional elections as against those at the Federal level: everywhere, but particularly in Nizhni Novgorod, the voters perhaps were more interested in their municipal and regional elections and issues than in those nationally. The Electoral Commissions to whom the delegation spoke also felt that the combination of the Federal, regional and local elections would and did result in a higher turnout than otherwise would have been the case.
One practice, however, identified by the delegation in Nizhni Novgorod, in the polling station near to a major military establishment, was the cause of some concern. Whilst military units voted, not in their barracks or establishments, but in the normal civilian polling stations, they registered their presence with and received their ballot papers from a military officer, not a civilian. The register in question, at the end of polling, was disclosed to the local Electoral Committee, but remained nonetheless the property of the military establishment, which could thus easily see who had or had not voted. Although voting preferences could not be detected and the practice was justified by the fact that military conscripts had elsewhere their place of abode, as stamped in their passports (propiska), and that alternative registering arrangements therefore had to be made, the delegation felt that the practice could influence voting patterns in the military forces.
As to the pre-electoral campaign, the delegates did not hear any major criticism, except that those already in control of the administration, i.e. the existing Governors, were considered by the opposition candidates to have an unfair advantage in terms of their use of the official apparatus and publicity vehicles. By and large, however, it was felt that the pre-electoral campaign had been fair; that, for example, time on television and media had been allocated fairly; that all candidates had an equal financial allocation for electoral purposes, although this did not stop some of the more well-off or better-connected candidates from having additional resources.
The delegation had suggested that there be one, to be held on Monday morning the 18th of December. However, although this was accordingly provisionally arranged, it did not in the end transpire.
However, the delegation had a debriefing session with a Head of Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and during the visit to Nizhni Novgorod, Mr Bodfish and Mr Hartley gave interviews to regional and local television, on their impressions.
Upon its return, the delegation issued a Press Communique, giving its impressions (see Appendix II).
The results of the elections in the two regions are as follows:
a. Moscow Region:
Mr Tyazlilov was elected Governor after a second round of voting.
b. Nizhni Novgorod Region:
Mr Nemsov was elected Governor at the first round.
c. City of Nizhni Novgorod:
Mr Skliarov was elected Head of Administration at the first round.
The Secretariat has a great deal of campaign material, biographical details and copies of the Electoral Law.
This was the third election mission to Russia. The first was held two years ago for the City and Region of Moscow, in December 1993; a second to Krasnodar in October 1994.
In a sense, this was the least satisfactory, in that the delegation did not meet with a sufficient number of political representatives, despite having requested this. Also, the delegation, particularly in Moscow, was somewhat taken in hand by officials of the region, certainly as a gesture of courtesy. However, in future, it might be preferable to retain a greater degree of independence.
For future elections in 1996, the delegation suggests that the CLRAE sends further observation missions to both local and regional elections, possibly one or two in each case.
Local Councils or City Dumas have been elected in 42 municipalities as follows:
Council of Europe
DIRECTORATE OF INFORMATION
F-67075 STRASBOURG CEDEX (FRANCE)
T61: 88 41 25 60 Telex : 871388F Telefax : 88 41 27 90
Election of Local and Regional Heads of Administration in the Federation of Russia
17 December 1995
Strasbourg, 20.12.95 - A delegation of the COUNCIL OF EUROPE's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) visited the Federation of Russia from 15 to 18 December 1995 in order to observe the elections taking place in a number of municipalities and regions for, respectively, the Head of the local administration and Head of the regional administration (Governor).
The delegation visited polling stations in the regions of Moscow (regional elections) and Nitzhni Novgorod (city and regional elections) speaking to members of electoral committees, representatives of parties, some candidates and voters.
The delegation concluded that the elections had been prepared and run efficiently, that no significant shortcomings could be observed, and that they had been conducted according to accepted democratic standards and procedures.
The delegation was particularly struck by the interest and enthusiasm shown by voters for local and regional issues and for the political process and elections in their regions.
Approximately half the regional assemblies in the Federation of Russia have now been elected directly. For the municipalities, 42 cites now have elected municipal councils; the elections for the remaining city councils are to be conducted in 1996.
Members of the delegation visiting Russia on this occasion were:
Mr Kenneth BODFISH, Deputy Leader of East Sussex County Council (United Kingdom), Mr Jacques-Médéric CHEVROT, Chairman of the International Relations Committee of the Franche-Comté Regional Council (France) and Mrs Olga BENNETT, Councillor, Dublin Corporation (Ireland).
A full report, available early in the New Year, will be prepared for the CLRAE.
For further information, please contact:
Mr Richard Hartley
Secretariat of the
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE)
Council of Europe
F-67075 STRASBOURG CEDEX
Tel: 18.104.22.168 Fax: 22.214.171.124