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Duma election campaign starts in Russia

August 30, 2011, 15:30 UTC+3
According to forecasts of the Central Election Commission (CEC), a total of over 50 thousand candidates of all levels will be nominated
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MOSCOW, August 30 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s decree on setting the State Duma elections day on December 4, 2011 was published in the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily on Tuesday.

Thus, August 30 has officially become the first day of the parliamentary election campaign in which all seven political parties registered in the country intend to participate. In addition to nominating candidates for 450 seats in the lower house of parliament, they will have to determine the potential holders of mandates in 27 regional parliaments. According to forecasts of the Central Election Commission (CEC), a total of over 50 thousand candidates of all levels will be nominated.

On Monday, CEC secretary Nikolai Konkin said that the schedule of activities for the State Duma elections will be approved on August 31. “The milestones are clear - the parties are preparing and putting forward the lists of candidates,” CEC Chairman Vladimir Churov said. “The registration process will end on October 29. Within three days we have to hold the lots drawing procedure (for the order of placement of party lists on the ballots),” he added. “The most important thing now for us and the parties is training. The parties should train observers and commissioners for financial matters,” the CEC head noted. According to him, a meeting with representatives of the RF Sberbank (Savings Bank) “on opening accounts” is to be held soon.

Churov informed that more than 7 billion roubles will be spent on the Duma elections procedure, and the funds will be sent to the regions already “in the first ten days of September.” According to him, from August 30 “our financial experts will organise a round-the-clock duty in the Finance Ministry. We do this not for ourselves, but to accelerate the money transfer to the election commissions of constituent entities of the Russian Federation.” Churov noted that over 91 percent of funds for the elections will be transferred to regions. The funds, in particular, will be spent on purchasing additional equipment, making of ballots and special marks protecting the ballots from counterfeiting. “Marks for the ballots will have 18 degrees of protection. You will learn all their secrets only after the vote,” Churov said.

Election 2011 will be held on renewed rules, among them there is extension of the State Duma deputies’ mandate from 4 to 5 years, reduction in the number of signatures from 200,000 to 150,000 for registering as participants in the elections for non-parliamentary parties. Parties that will win more than 5 but less than 7 percent of the votes will get their deputy mandates. In addition, responsibility for violations linked with the use of absentee ballots has been toughened and the early voting procedure has been put in order.

Naturally, the election campaign and the actual election must be held within the framework outlined by the RF president in Sochi on Monday as he met with representatives of seven parties. Medvedev demanded, in particular, not to use the theme of interethnic relations in the election campaign, to act within the law, not to use the administrative resource and not to bring unfounded actions for falsifications.

“All this is a result of our joint work. I hope that this has created additional guarantees for fair political competition,” he said. Medvedev also pointed out, “Parties that are represented in the parliament now have equal access to state-owned television and radio channels.” “In order to rule out even a hypothetical situation with vote rigging, we will continue providing all election commissions with new equipment,” he said. This process should be completed in 2015. “Frankly speaking, it could end sooner, if it were not for certain financial difficulties. But we have decided that this is a balanced approach and voting equipment will be installed at a large number of polling stations – about 5,000 in all regions of the country – by December 4,” Medvedev said.

In general, the Russian president stated on August 29, “our state is ready for the elections.”

The most recent legislative elections were held in the Russian Federation on 2 December 2007. At stake were the 450 seats in the State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia (the legislature). Eleven parties were included in the ballot, including Russia’s largest party, United Russia, which was supported by President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Official results show that United Russia won 64.3 percent of the votes, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation 11.6 percent, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia 8.1 percent, and Just (Fair) Russia won 7.7 percent, and none of the other parties won enough votes to gain any seats.

Although 400 foreign election monitors were present at the polling stations, the elections have received mixed criticism internationally largely from Western countries and by some independent media and some opposition parties domestically. The observers have stated that the elections were not rigged but that media coverage was heavily favoured towards United Russia. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have stated that the elections were “not fair,” while foreign governments and the European Union have called on Russia to look for possible violations. The election commission has responded saying that the allegations will be examined. The Kremlin has insisted that the vote was fair and said it demonstrated Russia’s political stability. 

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