Publication | Report/Paper

Final Report, Russia Project, April 15, 1998-June 30, 2001


Building upon five years of work in Russia, the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) entered into a Cooperative Agreement with USAID/Russia in May of 1998. The aim of the project was three fold: (I) To create a sustainable successor domestic organization. (2) to deliver technical assistance to the Central Election Commission (CEC) and the State Duma and. from July 1999 onwards. (3) to train journalists and media executives in the area of electoral journalism. On all accounts, the programs were implemented in full and. according to independent organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Central Election Commission, and numerous media organizations and journalists were tremendously successful.

This Final Project Report details the activities carried out under the three primary components of the program the impacts they had. as well as the "lessons learned" over the course of the project, highlighted in gray side-boxes. Each component can be summarized as follows:

1. Institute For Election Systems Development (IESD)

Early in the program, IFES set out to transform its field office into a self-sustaining Russian organization able to deliver programs on electoral reform and democracy in general, as well as manage substantial amounts of funding. IFES' initial step was to identify an able English-speaking Executive Director who had ideas, experience, and knew the electoral field. Alexander Yurin was selected to serve as IFES/Russia Deputy Director in the autumn of 1998. Mr. Yurin, with IFES support developed IESD from the beginning - recruiting Board members, staff, and identifying funding. IFES, in its part, presented IESD as an equal partner, supported its institutional development, financial, and managerial training, and committed successively larger sub-grants to the organization. In time for the State Duma elections in 1999, IESD was able to carry out independent programs and sustain audits. By 2000, IESD entered in a Cooperative Agreement with USAID and started to work fully independent of its parent. IFES continued to provide institutional development support and grants until the end of the project. By 2001 IESD has inherited IFES' reputation and "marketplace" within Russia and already expanded its activity base to include civic advocacy and first-time voter initiatives.

2. Elections Technical Assistance Throughout the project, the CEC and the State Duma Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs welcomed IFES' commentaries on election laws and processes. The CEC itself contributed to expenses and labor to carry out programs. During the period of April 1998 through June 1999, the emphasis of the program was on the development of the legal framework for federal elections in the Russian Federation. IFES delivered targeted analyses of the Law on Basic Guarantees, which governs all Russian elections, the State Duma Election Law, and the Presidential Election law. There were three primary objectives:

•         increase the transparency of the system,

•         improve the campaign finance system, and

•         revamp the rules governing the media.

IFES' commentaries were reflected for example, in over a third of the legislative amendments introduced in the Law on Basic Guarantees of March 1999. To ensure consistent support for the State Duma and presidential elections, IFES maintained an on-site technical advisor who worked directly with the CEC on various issues. A comprehensive technical assessment was delivered to the CEC and regional Subject Election Commissions (SECs) in July 2000. Under this component, IFES also hosted the CEC Chairman, who witnessed the 2000 U.S. Presidential elections.

3. Media and Elections

Early on in the program, significant weaknesses were identified in relation to the media's coverage of elections. The media's own understanding of its electoral role and responsibilities, media ethics, and the legal framework governing media activity in the period of elections were all found wanting. In response to this, IFES developed an exceptional regional media program, which it partnered with IESD and the National Press Institute (NPI). The program, headed by Dr. Daphne Skillen, linked election commissioners and print/electronic journalists in fifteen 2-day seminars with 500+ participants. Participants came from over 45 subjects during the State Durna and presidential election period. All seminars were held in partnership with the CEC or the SECs and a media handbook was produced for each election. The CEC and the media found great value in having a chance to exchange views and learn in a non-confrontational atmosphere; 85% of the participants expressed very positive views on the seminars, and more wanted additional documents or similar events in the future.

In response to this demand, IFES produced an "investigative journalism" training video accompanied by a guide in July of 2000. The 50-minute video details the stages of the electoral process, identifies where fraud is likely to occur, and describes the role of a journalist in the electoral process. It has been already re-released three times by IESD to honor the 1,200 plus requests that came from various media groups and journalists.

Read the Full Report.