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Debate on proposal to return 'against all candidates' box to ballots continues

September 30, 2013, 10:54 UTC+3

Opposition-minded citizens should have the opportunity to vote not just “out of spite” - for anybody, except the authorities, but “against all candidates”

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MOSCOW, September 30 (Itar-Tass) - Russians are debating on the proposal of Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko to return the box “against all candidates” to ballot papers. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has generally supported this idea. Experts believe that the “against all candidates” box would be an alternative to the real opposition candidates.

Opposition-minded citizens should have the opportunity to vote not just “out of spite” - for anybody, except the authorities, but “against all candidates.” This statement was made, after Valentina Matviyenko, by Russia’s Prime Minister, chairman of the United Russia party, Dmitry Medvedev, the Kommersant daily writes. In an interview with the Rossiya 24 news TV channel Dmitry Medvedev expressed the opinion that maybe “there is no sense at all” in the “against all candidates” box, as before, “when the parties’ number was much smaller,” “but in terms of a better expression of will in the voting process, it is rather useful.”

The citizens are obviously happy about the possible return of the “against all candidates” box to the ballots: at present, 78% of Russians, according to the Levada Centre public opinion survey organization, are in favor of its return, the newspaper stresses. This does not mean that all of these respondents are willing to check the “against all candidates” box, says sociologist Alexei Levinson, but they are accumulating the “general disappointment with the political leaders of the past years.” And the number of those who would like to get the right to vote “against all candidates” is growing: in 2011, there were 71% of such people. Then, during the Duma election campaign, the non-system opposition had adopted the method to urge the people to vote “for any party, just not for United Russia.” As a result, the ruling party in December 2011 scored less than 50% of the vote. If the protest vote box had existed then, the result could have been different.

“Apparently, the United Russia party members remember this experience,” Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CPRF) in charge of information and analysis and conduct of election campaigns Sergei Obukhov told the Kommersant daily. The vote “against all candidates,” the same as voting for small parties - spoilers, he said, would allow the ruling party to get additional mandates through the redistribution of votes that were not given for the parties that passed the electoral threshold.

Experts, interviewed by the newspaper, believe that the “against all candidates” box is an alternative to the real opposition candidates. “The authorities do not want the opposition-minded citizens to be able to influence anything,” election law expert Leonid Kirichenko told the daily.

“If we imagine a pair of scales, it is possible to put a pebble on the scale of one of the candidates. And it is also possible to put it near the scale - this is ‘against all’ voting,” he added. This has nothing to do with the democratic nature of elections, said the expert, just you are against, you vote, but “actually you are not getting involved in the game, and the authorities are happy.”

According to observations of sociologists of Levada Centre, the number of supporters of the return of the “against all candidates” box has reached the highest level in recent years: in 2012, the number of those who supported this idea stood at 74%, in 2011 - at 71%, in 2007 - at 66%, the Novye Izvestia newspaper emphasizes. Only 3% of Russian citizens are vehemently opposed to the return of the right to protest voting, the newspaper notes, recalling that Russians had been deprived of the opportunity to vote against all candidates in 2006.

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