MOSCOW, November 29 (Itar-Tass) — A ban on publishing opinion poll results on the outcome of elections to the State Duma lower house of parliament comes into force on Tuesday in the parliamentary election campaign. Under the law a similar ban is imposed also on other studies related to the elections. It extends to the placement of such data in information and telecommunication networks, including the Internet. This measure, in essence, precedes the “day of silence” and serves the same purpose, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) explained to Itar-Tass. “Before the vote, the electorate should have a possibility to make a conscious choice without any outside pressure, including data of authoritative sociological services,” the CEC said.
The ban will last until 21:00 MSK on December 4, when all polling stations at the Duma elections will be closed in Russia. On the same hour the sociologists are expected to make public the “hottest” information - the data of exit polls that will be the first to shed light on the possible results of the voting. Such exit polls have been included in Russia’s electoral practices and have already been conducted in a number of federal cycles.
It is no secret that at some elections the exit poll results were announced ahead of time, in violation of the law. Russian CEC head Vladimir Churov fears that this can happen also on December 4. Moreover, he does not rule out the appearance of fake exit polls. “False information, exit polls conducted by nobody can appear - a kind of ballot-stuffing,” Churov said last week at a meeting with representatives of nongovernmental organisations. The CEC head said that “the problem with the exit polls has not been settled in the world.” According to him, as a rule, they appear early on the websites or in electronic media in foreign countries that are accessible to residents of the country where elections are held. In particular, Churov believes that the exit polls data can be posted “on websites in Ukraine or Moldova, or in Estonia.”
As is known, public opinion polls have become an integral part of any election campaign. It is not accidentally that the legislation includes the requirements that the media should strictly comply with when they publish their results. The country’s authoritative social services have a very responsible approach to the compilation of electoral ratings. It is noteworthy that the leading sociologists have repeatedly organised a kind of a “sweepstake,” a week before the voting closing in a safe sealed envelopes with their forecasts in order to see on the vote results whose study proved more accurate.
The parliamentary campaign was officially kicked off on August 30, after the presidential decree appointing the voting date was published. These elections, like the previous ones, will be held under the proportional election system, or by party lists. For the first time in Russia’s recent history, all the seven political parties registered by the Ministry of Justice are taking part in the campaign. All the seven have managed to win registration for parliamentary elections, including the three parties, which had no seats in the State Duma of the fifth convocation. These three parties managed to collect 150,000 signatures to be registered. So, slightly more than 3,000 registered candidates will compete for 450 Duma seats.
Although the term of a next Duma has been extended to five years, an average of seven candidates are vying for one Duma seat, or almost by half less than at the previous elections. Experts say that notwithstanding this fact the completion is not less tough, which is reflected in media canvassing. According to analysts, canvassing methods used in this campaign are rather tough, if not brutal. Thus, some TV companies demanded that parties’ campaign masterminds employed some censorship to their TV reels. Moreover, they appealed for clarification to the Central Election Commission, and the latter referred two reels of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and the Just Russia party to police for an expert opinion of their compliance to law.
The ruling United Russia party, which has not been taking part in televised debates for years, has finally released a number of reels featuring the president and the prime minister. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) found itself in a focus of a scandal over the use of photos of legendary arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov. The Central Election Commission received to contradictory documents about the latter’s consent to take part in the CPRF’s campaigning. Unlike the previous Duma campaign, the parties are making a more extensive use of the Internet for their campaigning purposes. One positive thing about the current campaign is that such methods as graffiti are no longer used.
It is expected that the coming week will be rich in events. A number of parties have already announced their intention to stage mass rallies on the last day of campaigning, December 2. At midnight on December 3, the so-called day of silence, when any canvassing or campaigning is banned, begins. From November 29, it will be prohibited to announce the results of all kinds of opinion polls or election forecasts. On the same day, the CEC will hold a videoconference with all other election commissions. Taking part in the videoconference there will be officials from the Russian president’s administration, the Russian government, Prosecutor General’s Office, federal and regional authorities.
Along with elections to the national parliament’s lower house, local legislatures will be elected in 27 Russia regions on the same day. In all, according to the CEC, about 2,800 elections of various levels, and 103 local referendums will be held in Russia’s 77 constituent regions on December 4. About 45,000 candidates have been registered for all these elections across Russia, Vladimir Churov said.