The 1999 Election to the Russian State Duma: Findings and Recommendations

Introduction

The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) applauds the efforts of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation (CEC), the Subject Election Commissions and other sub-level election commissions in conducting the 1999 Duma elections in a manner in which the will of the voters was confirmed. In general, IFES concludes that, with some exceptions, on Election Day the election process worked. On the whole, the State Duma election was not compromised and the electorate declared its choices in a democratic manner. However, significant issues remain to be addressed with regard to the pre-election campaign period and the administration of elections on election day. These findings discuss these issues in depth and provide specific recommendations in an effort to promote freer and fairer elections in the Russian Federation.

Considerable improvements in the Russian electoral system were evidenced in the Duma elections. The legal framework to carry out elections was significantly improved in comparison with the 1995 electoral process. For example, the new laws: (a) define deadlines for specific actions to be undertaken, such as registration of candidates and submittal of financial disclosure documentation; (b) strengthen the ballot access regime by requiring financial disclosure and disclosure of the existence of any criminal history; (c) strengthen the role of the Central Election Commission and clarify the hierarchy of the election commissions and their relationship with federal bodies; (d) provide for free air time for public service announcements to election commissions; and (e) generally increase transparency in the election process, especially by requiring that election commissions' work be conducted under public scrutiny. Evidence of greater transparency was witnessed on election day and included the posting of large protocols at the polling stations and the greater use of election observers by political parties, blocs and independent candidates. In addition, the development of new non-governmental organizations whose mission is to promote improvements in the electoral process and human rights is certainly a step in the right direction.

Due to the change in the Presidential election calendar, this report on the Russian State Duma elections will be abbreviated, highlighting the chief findings identified during IFES' assessment of the Duma election process. While the section on Election Day Concerns concentrates on weaknesses and violations of electoral norms, IFES contends that, on the whole, these were minor infractions and conduct with significant fraudulent intent was not observed. IFES' assessment of the entire election process for the State Duma elections, however, indicates that important improvements should be made in the administration of elections in the pre-election day campaign period, the period in which the most egregious abuses of electoral procedures took place. IFES' s pre-election campaign and election day and findings are contained herein.

Through this brief report of findings, IFES proposes to the CEC, for its consideration, areas in need of improvement so as to ensure freer and fairer democratic elections in Russia. The IFES Pre-Election Technical Assessment (PETA, Analysis of the Presidential Election Law and The Role of the Media During Elections take a more detailed look at some of these issues and fully describe the Constitutional and legislative basis for the conduct of elections in Russia. IFES' report on the upcoming Presidential election will explore these issues in much further detail and provide recommendations for improvement (as did the PETA). These findings are aimed at providing information to the CEC and other election-related organizations in an effort to assess and make necessary improvements to voting procedures and election administration in Russia in the context of the recently held State Duma elections (19 December 1999).

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