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The Russian Constitutional Court allowed voters to challenge election results in courts. However, they can only challenge election results at the voting stations where they cast ballots. On Monday, the Constitutional Court granted the appeal by the Russian ombudsman and ruled that it was illegal for the courts to refuse to consider the citizens' statements protesting election results. The Constitutional Court's review followed a series of refusals by courts of original jurisdiction to accept the statements challenging the official results of the parliamentary election.
The plaintiffs tried to challenge, in courts of general jurisdiction, violations during the voting at the December 4, 2011 parliamentary election, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta reminds. However, whereas the courts accepted such statements at first, they began to turn them down later, stating that challenging the results was the prerogative of the persons directly involved, i.e. candidates. On Monday, the Constitutional Court acknowledged voters or observers' right to complain to courts about the election commissions. Election results henceforth can be challenged by both voters and political parties.
Under the Constitutional Court's ruling, the federal legislators should not necessarily limit themselves to the minimal requirements stated in the ruling, but envision a special procedure for citizens to appeal election results or make this right apply to other entities, the Kommersant writes. The relevant options are listed in the Constitutional Court's decision.
Representative of the Petersburg group of plaintiffs, lawyer Yelizaveta Napara, cited by the newspaper, sees the main danger in it. She believes that Russian legislators might set such parameters of appeal for the voters as to actually block the opportunity. Lawyer Vadim Prokhorov thinks that the courts not only should look into the appeals by the plaintiffs listed in the Court’s ruling, but also hold new reviews of other cases "due to the new circumstances."
Head of the elections monitoring department of the Golos association Andrei Buzin thinks that it is hardly possible to cancel the election results even at one voting situation, the Novye Izvestia writes. Because the courts can use the same pretext again, saying "the vote-count has not influenced the voters' expression of will," or that "the body of violations has had no decisive influence on the election results."
"It is explained by the fact that our judicial system is well-fitted into the power vertical; it is not self-contained," Buzin stated.
The complaints by Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and several voters from Voronezh and St Petersburg were the reasons for a check into the provisions of the law which enable courts not to consider the voters' complaints, the Vedomosti writes. They all had unsuccessfully tried to appeal the parliamentary and presidential election results in legal actions, pointing out to numerous cases of fraud.
Meanwhile, representatives of the president, the Federation Council and the State Duma, as well as the Central Election Commission and the Supreme Court defended the established judicial practice.
"Thousands and dozens of thousands of actions might be filed to serve the unseemly purpose: to undermine the trust in government bodies to be elected," the newspaper cited Federation Council member Andrei Klishas as saying.
Constitutional Court judge Nikolai Bondar does not think that the court will be flooded by the complaints: citizens can only appeal the election results at certain voting stations, but not the general results.
Still, Olga Andronova, one of the plaintiffs, whose opinion was cited by the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, said the opportunity given by the Constitutional Court to seek "peaceful return of the country's illegitimate government into the legal fold" was a victory.