A month before the election: the presidential election campaign enters the homestretch

MOSCOW, February 18. /TASS/. The presidential election campaign in Russia is on the home stretch, exactly a month remains until the day when the national elections the Russians will determine who will lead the country for the next six years.

However, residents of remote localities, and staff of meteorological polar stations, the crews in the sailing of ships, the Russians in a number of foreign countries will be able to vote early starting from 25 February.

Experts specializing in electoral processes, describe the current campaign as competitive and open. In addition to electoral processes, they pay attention that this campaign in the all-Russian scale tested a number of important innovations that can significantly change the quality of the voting procedure and to allow to make choices that matter for every citizen, in the end, significantly increasing their legitimacy.

All the polls

The election campaign in Russia lasts just three months – from December 18, 2017 to March 18 of this year.

For the first two thirds of this period were tense from the point of view of organization of the electoral procedures the process of nomination and registration of candidates, culminating in the formation of the final list of candidates for the top state post.

Initially the claim for participation in the elections showed a few dozen people, the emergence of some of them gave the impression not so much of political scientists, how many experts from the spheres of show business. About the presidential ambitions were declared released from jail a former construction magnate Sergei Polonsky and the owner of the strip clubs Lucky Lee, who called himself “Communist “United Russia” Tristan Presaging and blogger, Samson Sholademi.

Has declared the intention to nominate candidates and parties, the names of many of which perhaps first appeared in the information space.

The vast majority of them dropped out at the stage of the pre-election congresses and meetings of initiative groups of citizens in support of the nomination of candidates, and to complete the stage of the nomination reached 17 people. Moreover, among them obviously was a group of candidates with the greatest chances of progressing to the next stage of the campaign, acting President Vladimir Putin, who is running as self-nominated candidates, the candidates of the parliamentary parties of the liberal democratic party and the Communist party, the nominees of the parties, in recent years, actively participating in election campaigns of different levels and having enough resources to undergo time-consuming and technically difficult stage of collecting signatures of voters.

Signed correctly

To obtain official registration as candidates, independent candidates had to submit to the Central election Commission not less than 300 thousand signatures of citizens, candidates of non-parliamentary parties – at least 100 thousand, and the autographs were to be collected not less than in 40 subjects of the Russian Federation, to meet certain requirements and be notarized. Candidates of parties represented in the Duma are exempt from this requirement.

Full package of documents, including voter signatures for registration was represented by six candidates. After verification of the signatures all of them were registered.

Experts draw attention to the uniqueness of this case in Russian electoral history. “An unprecedented case. All the candidates who came to the CEC with the signatures all checked out”, – said Chairman of the Central election Commission, Ella Pamfilova. She explained this by the fact that compared to previous presidential elections the necessary number of signatures for candidates from non-parliamentary parties was reduced 20 times, for independent candidates – seven times, so the candidates had more opportunities a careful approach to the verification of autographs.

In the course of previous campaigns volume to accept false signatures were often an insurmountable barrier for participation in elections for many candidates. Thus, the elections in 2012 for this reason, was not admitted to the elections Grigory Yavlinsky.

According to political analyst Pavel Danilin, the fact that all passed signatures successfully passed the registration, is a “positive signal of the electoral system”. “No limits for those who reached the stage of registration and collection of signatures, no. And the signature was verified loyal as much as possible, it was not the desire in a special way for someone to dismiss or to “fill up”, – he explained TASS. According to experts, this was the result of systemic reforms “to create an open, competitive electoral system”, which was first held in 2012.

After registration on the ballot, which the Russians will get in the elections, was included eight candidates: former Deputy speaker of the state Duma Sergey Baburin (“Russian national Union”), a non-partisan businessman Pavel Grudinin (KPRF), Vladimir Zhirinovsky (LDPR), Vladimir Putin (self), TV presenter Xenia Sobchak (“Civil initiative”), Maxim suraykin (“Communists of Russia”), the business Ombudsman Boris Titov (Batch growth), Grigory Yavlinsky (Yabloko).

Thus, among the presidential candidates turned out to be “patriarchs” of Russian politics, like Baburin, Zhirinovsky, Yavlinsky, and absolute beginners, as Sobchak.

The number of “finishers” of the candidates in the current campaign – the largest in the elections of the same level, since 2000, when the presidency fought 11 people. Experts note that the current set of candidates represents the interests of almost all groups of voters.

“We see a large number of candidates representing the various political forces,” – said the head of the expert Council of the Expert Institute of social studies (AISI) Gleb Kuznetsov. He drew attention that the campaign involves “at least three representatives of the left and levopatrioticheskih forces is Baburin, suraykin, Grudinin,” the three representatives of the forces of “conventionally right-wing liberal” (Sobchak, Grigory Yavlinsky, Titov). “We see traditional candidate “by itself” – is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the founder of Russian populism, even when the West no one about this about populism as a serious political force did not say,” continued the expert.

That is, he concludes, “represented the political spectrum, voters have to choose from, all the candidates offer enough interest policy.” “I would say that compared to the previous election campaign 2012, the campaign more interesting and diverse list of candidates,” concluded Kuznetsov.

It’s only the beginning

Meanwhile, experts have concluded that for the remaining month before the election will have the most dynamic segment of the campaign. This is due, primarily, beginning February 17, the period of campaigning in the media, traditionally considered to be the most spectacular and colorful stage on which the candidates and their staffs will inform voters about its programme and to convince to make a decision in their favor.

“The most striking point in the election campaign still ahead, obviously, the election has just begun,” – said Gleb Kuznetsov. Yet, in his opinion, “the intrigue, the brightness of the campaign creates an unusual list of candidates”. In the next phase it will be possible to judge that the candidates “will offer the public than to attract attention,” says the analyst.

According to the Director of the Institute of political sociology Vyacheslav Smirnov, at this point in the campaign “there are two unknowns: one question is who will take second place, and the second question – who will occupy the last place.” “If Grudinin and Zhirinovsky are fighting for second place, then the other candidates a little more complicated, somebody just wants to show himself, to increase its capitalization, becoming a candidate, who wants to draw attention to himself and his ideology, his party, then, after the presidential election to nominate its party list and participate in the elections [to the Duma] as a serious politician,” he muses. According to the analyst, the campaign gives candidates the opportunity to the prospect to decide who their electorate.

In this sense, according to Smirnov, “more interesting to watch not for the leaders who are fighting for second place, and for the same Sobchak and Baburin”. “Because one reflects the interests of the liberal community, community opposition, and the other – the interests of left-wing nationalists,” he explains. “It’s two opposite candidate, and very excited about how much interest you will get,” – sums up the expert.

The Chairman of the Board of the Foundation “Center of political technologies” Boris Makarenko considers one of the intrigues of the campaign “duel” between Sobchak and Yavlinsky. “It’s competition for the role of the main public leader on the liberal flank,” he said.

The poll

According to the survey of the all-Russia centre of studying of public opinion (VTSIOM), conducted February 9-11, 71.5% of respondents expressed readiness to vote for Vladimir Putin. According to head VTSIOM Valery Fedorova, the fluctuations of the rating of the incumbent occur within three to four percent of the corridor, and “its leadership has not been a serious test of strength on the part of other candidates.”

In the second place, it follows from the research, fight the candidates of the CPRF and the LDPR. According to Fedorova, for the last time Grudinina “phenomenally skyrocketed fame” and has reached 70 per cent, with a rating of 7.3% is stagnating and not up to the rating of the Communist party, fixed at the level of 9.6%.

We can assume that growth of popularity of the candidate from the Communist party contributed to the scandal around the presence of his accounts in Austria and Switzerland. Submitting documents for registration, applicants must provide information on the closure of all foreign accounts. Grudinin filed its lack of any financial assets abroad, but did not provide supporting information on this.

For Zhirinovsky, according to the survey, expressed a willingness to vote, 5.5% of respondents. And its rating, said the head of VTSIOM, while also less than the rating of the nominating party (8.7 percent).

The survey data also show that Sobchak is ready to vote 1%, Yavlinsky – 0,8%, Baburin – 0,5% in Titova – 0,2%, Suraikin of 0.1%.

Despite the opinion polls, experts still wary of use to the campaign of the term “referendum”. “The referendum is when the people is given one question to which they answer either Yes or no. To compare elections involving eight people with different programs, different political agendas, with the referendum, in my opinion, not very well,” says Kuznetsov. He also recalled that “the President is a figure of consensus, it is the leader of the country and represents everyone, including those who do not go to the polls, and those who lose, if we talk about the voters.”

Clean and transparent

These elections will operate a set of tools aimed at creating conditions for voting for the maximum number of voters and to ensure their transparency and legitimacy. We are talking primarily about the introduction of the so-called Institute of mobile voter, providing the possibility of voting not at the place of registration and place of actual residence. To do this, any Russian citizen enough through the MFC, the portal of public services or electoral Commission only submit a petition for detachment from the polling station, “the registration”, and notifies, in what area he intends to vote.

As of February 16, this option was used almost 727 thousand. This system replaced the practice of issuing absentee ballots, which in the previous campaigns was the target of fierce criticism from observers, who considered them as a way of manipulation.

In addition, surveillance was extended to the premises of the territorial election commissions (TECs), where the data of protocols of voting are entered in the state automated system (GUS) “Election” embedded QR codes technology in the manufacture of final protocols of precinct election commissions (PECs) that allows two times to speed up the data entry process. Expanded monitoring capabilities: now observers can not only those who are delegated to parties and candidates, but also representatives of public chambers.

“Changed the electoral laws to ensure greater transparency: surveillance not only in PECs, but also Ticks, it is the public observers from the Federal and regional public chambers, it is QR codes on the protocols, the vote at the location, and all of these procedures provide greater transparency and accessibility of electoral processes,” – said a member of the monitoring group of the Council under RF President on development of civil society and human rights (HRC) Alexander Brod who observed all the recent Federal campaigns.

He also drew attention to the fact that the CEC demonstrates a more severe reaction to any violation and “any problematic issues assigns inspections in the regions in large numbers”.

The Chairman of the Central election Commission has repeatedly stressed the fundamental attitude against any administrative arbitrariness, figuratively noting that “helpful” officials “are worse than any state Department”.

But in General, according to Pamfilova, the current election campaign is the most correct, and is characterized by the minimum number of violations compared to the previous. “On the basic parameters determining the nature of the campaign, in this period, compared to all previous election campaigns, this is the most correct, with the least amount of violations,” she said on Friday at the CEC session.

This conclusion, according to the experts, confirmed by the results of sociological research. According to Boris Makarenko, “now two-thirds of companies believe that the elections will be legitimate, only a quarter hold the opposite opinion”. According to VTSIOM, about one-third of Russians (34%) believe that the elections will be fair, 46% involve minor violations that do not affect the overall outcome of the election, and only 17% admit that the results will be seriously distorted.

Elections matter

The current campaign is extremely informational activity of the Central election Commission, in a variety of forms telling about when elections are held, who can participate in them, the possibilities of “mobile voters”.

“The most important thing – that these elections recognized by the citizens of the Russian Federation”, – Pamfilova stressed, noting the importance of ensuring that “citizens are not ignored elections, not stayed, and then grumbled that all wrong.” According to her, the CEC sees its main task to provide information about upcoming elections to every voter and do everything possible to motivate people to come to the polls. “The main thing – that was elected as a legitimate, transparent elections, the President, and no doubt this choice was not from anyone”, – said the CEC head.

However, she denied the speculation in the media about alleged attitudes on turnout in the elections, stating that “it is impossible for people to make, enforce, not to take any steps that would artificially it [turnout] was increased”.

“People used to treat elections as a holiday. If you do not feel the occasion, and to go to the polls not necessarily,” says Vyacheslav Smirnov, noting that, “as a rule, not vote, not those who are dissatisfied, namely those who are happy, because why go when it’s satisfied.” The solution to the problems he sees in large-scale informing of the election. “First and foremost, you need to send out notices, where elections are held, how to reach them. This makes the CEC and the election Commission on the ground are doing, and basically working to attract to the polls is,” – says the analyst.

It is no coincidence that polls recorded the percentage of those who intend to come to elections is very high: of the participants in the latest survey expressed a willingness to vote of 80.4%.

However, in some regions the day of presidential elections, the authorities decided to hold the so-called referendums – polls dedicated to school routine or landscaping. The CEC spoke strongly against the fact that these activities were carried out directly at the polling stations, with the assistance of members of election commissions.

Ella Pamfilova noted that it is not against the various activities on election day, but they should not interfere with the vote, “everyone should do their work.” She also urged not to use when conducting the interviews, the word “referendum”, to avoid voter confusion. The electoral Commission of the Moscow region, which a private ruling has called for “school referendum” in the region, the CEC made the remark.