07MOSCOW2043, TOUGHER ENVIRONMENT FOR PARTIES AS ELECTIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW2043 2007-05-04 09:38 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5425
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2043/01 1240938
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 040938Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9906
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4046
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2415
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2092

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 002043 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PINR RS
SUBJECT: TOUGHER ENVIRONMENT FOR PARTIES AS ELECTIONS 
APPROACH 
 
REF: A. 06 MOSCOW 11388 
 
     B. 06 MOSCOW 12498 
 
MOSCOW 00002043  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (SBU)  Summary:  Since the 2003 State Duma elections, the 
legislative environment for the December 2007 State Duma 
elections has changed significantly: 
 
   -- registration of political parties and their inclusion 
in the ballots for elections have become more complicated; 
 
   -- the deposit to be paid by parties not wanting to 
collect signatures has increased significantly; 
 
   -- this will be the first federal election that will be 
based solely on party lists; 
 
   -- the opportunities for parties to campaign aggressively 
have been reduced by prohibitions against "negative" 
advertising and the law on extremism; 
 
   -- the "against all" option on the ballot has been removed; 
 
   -- there is no minimum voter turnout required for an 
election to be valid; 
 
   -- parties must win at least seven percent of the vote to 
enter the Duma, up from five percent in 2003; and, 
 
   -- election monitors not sponsored by political parties or 
having the status of a journalist have largely been excluded. 
 
These changes, and the pervasive use of administrative 
resources, are seen by opposition parties to have created a 
controlled election process that favors incumbents.  End 
summary. 
 
--------------------------------- 
Party Registration More Difficult 
--------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU)  Although technically possible, it is unlikely that 
any new parties will be registered or that any de-registered 
parties will be re-registered in time for the December 2007 
Duma elections.  Thanks to 2006 amendments to the election 
law, registering a political party now requires the 
signatures of at least 50,000 members -- only 10,000 were 
necessary to register for the 2003 elections -- and a party 
must have at least 500 members, compared to 100 in 2003, in 
more than half of Russia's 86 regions.  This creates a 
formidable barrier for any new party, or a party without 
broad organizational resources, to overcome. The Federal 
Registration Service (FRS) has been scrupulous in assuring 
adherence to the law.  Nine parties have been de-registered 
since it came into effect on January 1, 2007, with an 
additional sixteen failing to meet the new requirements. 
Still, sixteen parties remain eligible to participate in the 
December Duma elections. 
 
--------------------- 
Getting on the Ballot 
--------------------- 
 
3. (SBU)  There are three ways to qualify for the ballot: 
being represented in the current Duma; depositing RUR 60 
million (USD 2.4 million), which is returned if the party 
receives at least four percent of the vote; or gathering at 
least 200 thousand signatures, with no more that 14 thousand 
from any one region. The first category has conferred prima 
facie election participation on United Russia, For A Just 
Russia (which qualifies as a party represented in the current 
Duma by assuming the mantle of Rodina, one of its three 
founding parties), LDPR, and the Communist Party (KPRF). 
Remaining contenders, such as the Union of Right Forces 
(SPS), Yabloko, and Patriots of Russia, will need to gather 
signatures or pay the pledge in order to qualify for the 
December contest.  In the March 2007 regional elections, few 
parties chose to pay the deposit, which was quite high.  (In 
St. Petersburg, the election deposit was RUR 90 million, 
about USD 3.6 million.)  The high deposit and close scrutiny 
of signature petitions can act as a de facto barrier to 
participation by minor parties.  (In the March 11 regional 
elections, the St. Petersburg regional election commission, 
backed by the Central Election Commission (CEC) and the 
courts, held that more than the required threshold of ten 
percent of Yabloko's signatures were false, leading to the 
party's disqualification.)  Calls from former CEC Chairman 
Aleksandr Veshnyakov and others to remove the need for 
 
MOSCOW 00002043  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
parties registered with the FRS to qualify separately with 
election commissions for each election have so far gone 
unheeded. 
 
---------------- 
Party Lists Only 
---------------- 
 
4. (SBU)  The 2007 Duma election will be the first federal 
party list only election.  In 2003, there were single-mandate 
districts and party lists, which enabled locally 
well-regarded politicians to run and win, despite weak party 
ties.  Now prospective Duma deputies will need above all to 
convince party leaders of their merits in order to be 
elected.  Recently-enacted "harmonizing" legislation has 
introduced a new method for making up party lists.  The new 
system envisions a "federal" party list, plus 80 separate 
"regional" lists, each of which must consist of at least 
three candidates.  Since the "regional" li
sts are not 
actually tied to regions, parties are free to demarcate their 
regions as they see fit, which essentially appears to allow 
each party to devise its own 80 individually gerrymandered 
districts. 
 
5. (SBU)  The 2007 electoral amendments also specify that if 
a party fields less than 75 regional party lists, it may be 
disqualified altogether.  In effect, a registered party can 
be taken off the ballot if it fails to field full party lists 
in only six of the eighty regions.  In other words, only six 
candidates (one from each of six regional party lists) need 
to have made some mistake in their registration documents in 
order for the entire party to lose its shot at Duma 
representation. 
 
----------- 
Campaigning 
----------- 
 
6. (SBU)  Once on the ballot, amendments that prevent 
"negative" campaigning and allow candidates to be removed 
from the ballot and media to be ultimately de-registered for 
"extremism" (an ill-defined term) may be employed.  The March 
regional elections suggested a propensity on the part of 
candidates and parties to cry "extremism" at almost any 
expression of disagreement with the status quo.  The regional 
media, concerned about losing their licenses, have often 
refrained from covering elections in any but the blandest 
terms in spite of, in some cases, being encouraged by their 
regional election commissions to step into the fray. 
 
------------ 
Election Day 
------------ 
 
7. (SBU)  The major changes affecting election day include 
the removal of the "against all" option from the ballot, 
abolishment of the minimum voter turnout requirement, and a 
requirement that a party receive seven percent, as opposed to 
five percent, of the vote in order to win Duma 
representation.  Both the removal of "against all" and of the 
minimum voter turnout requirements were strongly opposed by 
Veshnyakov, who charged that they would make Russians feel 
that citizen participation was not wanted or needed.  Many 
also worried that low voter turnout could cause some to 
question the legitimacy of the elections.  Supporters have 
noted that the Russian Constitution offers Russian citizens 
the right, but not the duty, to participate. 
 
8. (SBU)  Finally, parties may invite whomever they like to 
observe elections, but the law makes no provision for 
independent election observers.  NGOs which intend to observe 
elections may do so only if sponsored by parties represented 
on the ballot.  The two major pro-Kremlin parties, United 
Russia and A Just Russia, have to date been unwilling to 
sponsor NGO observers.  Some NGOs have indicated that they 
may attempt to have their observers accredited as 
journalists, who may observe elections, in order to sidestep 
the restriction on unaffiliated observers. 
 
------------------------ 
Administrative Resources 
------------------------ 
 
9. (SBU)  Although not addressed by legislation, the use of 
"administrative resources" is considered an important 
election factor.  According to sources, administrative 
resources range from university professors being required to 
 
MOSCOW 00002043  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
make their students vote (on penalty of bad grades/loss of 
jobs), polling stations at one-factory towns being located on 
site to make sure that everyone votes correctly, as well as 
the use of GOR facilities for campaign activity.  While 
administrative resources are less effective in cities, where 
the majority of Russia's population lives, United Russia's 
pluralities in the countryside in recent regional elections 
suggest that they remain a factor. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
10. (SBU)  It appears that amendments to Russian electoral 
legislation since the 2003 elections have been crafted in 
order to ensure a managed process that favors incumbent 
parties.  The changes provide the Federal Registration 
Service and regional election commissions with ample, legal 
reasons to disqualify parties should they choose to do so. 
Amendments to the law on extremism, so far, have further 
discouraged aggressive media coverage of the elections.  The 
elimination of the "against all" box on the ballot has made 
it less simple for voters to register their rejection of the 
menu of parties offered.  With the December Duma election 
campaign already informally underway, it appears that four 
parties have had the resources and organizational structures 
necessary to remain in the race.  A fifth party, the Union of 
Right Forces, could cross the seven percent threshold to 
representation.  The remaining registered parties have little 
prospect of making it into the Duma. 
BURNS

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