06MOSCOW12630, CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSIONER REVIEWS TRIP TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12630 2006-11-27 09:15 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8775
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #2630/01 3310915
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 270915Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5441
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 012630 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/RUS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2016 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM RS
SUBJECT: CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSIONER REVIEWS TRIP TO 
U.S.; REACTS TO ELECTION LAW AMENDMENTS 
 
REF: MOSCOW 12498 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns:  1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr 
Veshnyakov described to Ambassador November 21 his reaction 
to State Duma-adopted amendments to the existing electoral 
law (reftel).  Veshnyakov's key judgments: 
 
-- elimination of the minimum threshold for voter turnout in 
Russia was premature, and might allow parties to court only 
that small group of voters likely to vote for them.  A 
turnout of less than 50 percent, in Veshnyakov's view, could 
call into question the legitimacy of those elected; 
 
-- amendments adding to the list of circumstances under which 
candidates could be excluded are not welcome.  Although the 
decision not to register the Republican Party of Russia was 
not made by his Central Election Commission, Veshnyakov 
suggested that, in principle, parties should be excluded for 
"real reasons," not bureaucratic ones. 
 
-- although the law did not allow them to be independently 
registered as election observers, Russian NGOs wishing to 
observed the elections could do so with the sponsorship of 
registered political parties.  End summary. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
Reaction to Changes in the Electoral Law 
---------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) In a November 21 meeting, Central Election Commission 
Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov offered Ambassador the 
following observations on recent changes to the Russian 
electoral law (reftel): 
 
-- in Veshnyakov's view, there was no need for further 
amendments to the law.  Some of the new amendments are "not 
logical." 
 
-- Veshnyakov remained opposed to the elimination of a 
minimal threshold for voter turnout.  While noting that 
Germany, Great Britain, and the United States had no 
threshold, Veshnyakov worried that its elimination in Russia 
would allow political parties to "campaign only with those 
voters who will vote for them."  A turnout of less than 50 
percent would call into question the representative nature of 
the elected government, he thought.  Veshnyakov said that his 
final verdict on the decision would have to await the results 
of the 2007 elections. 
 
-- As a general principle, Veshnyakov thought it better not 
to exclude candidates for "formal" or "technical" violations 
of the electoral law.  If a would-be candidate inadvertently 
did not provide the full disclosure required by the law, or 
incorrectly completed a registration form, s/he should not be 
penalized.  There are already more than enough reasons in the 
existing electoral laws for disqualifying candidates, 
Veshnyakov thought.  More should not be added. 
 
-- As an addendum to the preceding and in response to a 
question from the Ambassador, Veshnyakov termed the refusal 
of the Federal Registration Service (FRS) to register the 
Republican Party of Russia (RPR) an "unpleasant theme for 
me."  While repeatedly stressing that the decision was not 
his to make, he again said there should be "real reasons, not 
bureaucratic reasons," for refusing to register a political 
party.  The RPR, said Veshnyakov, is free to appeal the FRS's 
decision through the courts. 
 
-- Veshnyakov sidestepped difficulties faced by Russian NGO 
representatives wishing to be accredited as observers, noting 
that they could be registered with the sponsorship of 
participating political parties.  The Foundation for Free 
Elections, under the Chairmanship of Public Chamber member 
Andrey Przhembskiy would also be able to coordinate the 
efforts of NGOs wishing to observe the elections, Veshnyakov 
said. 
 
--------------- 
Party Financing 
--------------- 
 
3. (C) In response to a question from the Ambassador about 
the comparatively deeper pockets of Kremlin-associated 
 
MOSCOW 00012630  002 OF 002 
 
 
political parties like United Russia, Veshnyakov defended 
Russia's campaign finance system.  Among its features: 
 
-- each registered political party is required to set up a 
special, transparent campaign account; 
-- the maximal amount allowed to be spent on a campaign is 
determined by law; 
-- state television networks and state print media are 
required to provided minimal free access for all registered 
parties; 
-- political parties can purchase additional media coverage 
with money from the official campaign funds; 
-- Veshnyakov noted parenthetically that nothing of course 
prevents the media from devoting more air time to the more 
telegenic or interesting candidates. 
 
----------------- 
Electronic Voting 
----------------- 
 
4. (C) Veshnyakov and members of his commission had recently 
returned from a trip to the U.S., where they observed the 
conduct of the November elections.  Asked by the Ambassador 
what he had gleaned in the U.S. that might have application 
in Russia, Veshnyakov offered the following observations: 
 
-- even in Illinois, which Veshnyakov described as
 "far 
advanced" in the development of electronic voting, it 
appeared to him that the voter was often not "psychologically 
prepared."  Veshnyakov guessed that as many of 80 percent of 
the voters there preferred more traditional means of 
registering their votes to electronic voting.  The October 8 
experiment with electronic voting in Novgorod suggested that 
the same was the case with the Russian voter.  Veshnyakov 
described to Ambassador plans to offer informational 
seminars, outreach to voters through the mass media, and to 
provide training modules as the Russian experiment with 
electronic voting advanced.  During a lengthy transition 
period, his Commission planned to offer voters the option of 
using a paper ballot, as well.  The CEC had determined that 
each electronic terminal would be equipped to allow voters to 
print a copy of their ballot, should they choose to do so.  A 
paper record, he thought, should quell the worries of those 
worried that their votes may have been recorded incorrectly. 
BURNS

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