#5 - JRL 7024
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS SET FOR MARCH 14, 2004
This newspaper has published the text of the new federal law "On the Elections of the President of the Russian Federation." Alexander VESHNYAKOV, Chairman of the Central Election Commission, comments on its basic provisions in a conversation with Alexander KRASULIN
The adoption of the law "On the Elections of the President of the Russian Federation," for which over 400 deputies of the State Duma voted in the third reading and which was approved by the Federation Council (with only eight members voting against it and six abstaining) opened the final stage of the creation of a new election legislation.
The federal law "On Political Parties" came into force in 2001 and the new wordings of the laws "On Basic Guarantees of Election Rights and the Right of Citizens of the Russian Federation to Take Part in the Referendum" and "On the Election of Deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation" were approved in 2002. Amendments to these laws, as well as the law on presidential elections were coordinated and are closely intertwined.
The renewal of the Russian election legislation was initiated to rule out problems during elections, reduce the number of scandals created by different interpretations of law, and increase the role and responsibility of political parties in the election process.
The new law "On the Elections of the President of the Russian Federation" overhauled the procedure for nominating candidates. In the past, a party, a socio-political movement or association (there are about 200 of them in Russia) had the right to nominate candidates after making a corresponding decision at their congresses and collecting 1 million signatures in support of their candidate. From now on, only political parties will have the right to nominate presidential candidates.
The parties that had proved their worth at the State Duma elections by negotiating the 5% barrier and getting seats in the lower house do not need to collect signatures in support of their candidate. They only need to make a decision at their congress and forward it to the Central Election Commission, which will duly register their candidate.
The parties that did not negotiate the 5% barrier may nominate candidates at their congresses but will be required to collect 2 million signatures to have their candidate registered with the Central Election Commission. I believe the decision to double the required number of signatures is justified. President is the top official of our vast country and hence candidates should prove already at the registration stage that they have sufficient public support. The new law preserved the provision according to which any citizen of Russia may nominate himself or herself as a candidate. To do so, he or she should rally a group of 500 people who will hold a meeting to officially support the nomination. After that they should collect the required 2 million signatures. Those who fulfil these conditions will be registered with Central Election Commission for the presidential race.
I believe that these provisions of the new law will reduce the number of candidates to four or five.
Just as the law on State Duma elections, the presidential elections law raised the ceiling of candidate's spending on the election campaign from 25 million roubles (the ceiling set for the 2000 elections) to 250 million roubles, which is as much as an election association (party) can spend on their State Duma election campaigns. The figure was born of the analysis of last election results and is designed to create conditions for honest election campaigns based on transparent election funds.
This does not mean that the candidate must collect the sum and use it to the last kopeck. Each candidate will use individual election strategy and tactics, possibilities and methods of working with the electorate. And, as we have seen more than once, money does not decide everything in elections in Russia.
The law also stipulates responsibility for violating the rules of financing the election campaign. If it transpires and is proved that the winner spent 10% above the permitted sum on his or her campaign or used money from sources other than the election fund, this will serve as the grounds for appealing to court to void the election results. Presidential candidates and the parties that nominate them should bear this in mind. Our democracy not just gives rights to citizens and political parties but also stipulates clearly formulated duties and responsibilities.
It should be also said that the approval of the law allows us to set the date for the elections. Presidential elections in Russia will be held on the second Sunday of the month in which previous elections were held and the president was elected for a term of four years (in this case, the next presidential elections will be held on March 14, 2004). The election campaign will last not five months as before but 90 to 100 days and so we can assume that the next presidential campaign will begin around December 10, 2003, at the final stage of the State Duma election campaign. This will be a specific feature of the forthcoming elections.
There is one more novelty stipulated in the law on elections to the State Duma, which was logically repeated in the law on presidential elections. To rule out any doubts concerning the outcome of the elections, determined on the basis of protocols of the district election commissions (there are over 94,000 of them in Russia), these laws stipulate that as soon as the election commission counts the votes, sums up the results and formalises them in the protocol, the said commission shall issue certified copies of the protocol to authorised persons from the candidate's party who attended the counting procedure.
After that the commission chairman shall immediately deliver the protocol to the superior election commission, where the protocol on election results is fed into the Vybory state automated system for transfer to the Central Election Commission.
A new element is the provision on placing the data in the Internet within the next 24 hours. Information from each election district in Russia, as well as about 400 election districts abroad will be available in the Internet no later than the day after.
Parties that will dispatch representatives to all election districts (and the bulk of parties can do this) will receive certified copies from each of them. They will be able to compare the results to the Internet data and add up the total. In short, we have created a powerful mechanism of public control, which will greatly increase the transparency of the work of election districts and increase the commissions' responsibility at this vital stage of the elections.