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Collage: Ksenia Telmanova

The Results of Candidate Nomination and Registration for the 13 September 2020 Elections to the Highest Offices of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation

Contents

Key Findings

1. The completed competition simulation model

2. The "municipal filter" as a deliberate way to cut off candidates from running in the election

Elections that are scheduled to take place on the Unified Election Day on 13 September 2020 will become the last major elections for the current membership of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Russia (at least if there happens no snap legislative election to the State Duma). The current membership of the CEC began their work on 28 March 2016. Around the same time, at only half a year distance, Sergei Kiriyenko became First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office. 

Russia's electoral system has come a long way over the period: it began with hope towards a more fair, transparent and competitive election boosted by the CEC activities, with disappointment gradually growing and peaking at the all-Russian vote on constitutional amendments—the most fraudulent vote in Russia's recent history by Golos estimates.

The 2018 regional elections took an unexpected turn for the governing class, which led to the already strict control over admitting candidates to gubernatorial election being tightened even further. Starting from 2019, even parliamentary party candidates suffered en masse removals from gubernatorial races, and all talks of the need to alleviate the "municipal filter" ceased. In the more complicated cases, like when United Russia's brand had a high disapproval rating, there emerged situational use of self-nomination mechanism, which happened to be accessible to "administrative candidates" only. After the shock of 2018, election managers became wary of even the slightest hints of launching a competitive campaign—gubernatorial election came to be seen as a strictly bureaucratic procedure of appointing the highest officials in the regions, a procedure where voters played no part in. 

The 2020 election demonstrate a fully formed election sterilization approach that does not require any major changes, as its creators would like to believe. This approach is based on controlling the admission of opposition candidates and the "administrative candidate" dominating the information field completely. As for the voting, such sterilized election implies it happens through administrative mobilization of voters. However, public demand for a renewed and more varied political representation is at odds with the course the authorities have taken. For that reason, extending the capacity for falsifying vote returns in particular has to be the next step in the logic of such electoral system development scenario. 

This report focuses on analyzing candidate nomination and registration results in the direct elections of highest officials that will take place in 18 regions. 

This is the second report compiled by Golos as part of the long-term observation project focused on the 2020 Unified Election Day. The first report detailed the legal aspects of the elections. Golos also released a joint regional report called "Analysis of Lists of the Individuals Who Put Their Signatures in Support of Gubernatorial Candidates in Perm Krai."



Key Findings

  1. By the year 2020, the electoral competition simulation model in gubernatorial election has taken a clear shape. Such model has the following fundamental features: situational secret agreements between major parties, pushing viable competitors out of the electoral field, replacing said competitors with simulations—"technical" sparring partners and imitative projects, reducing the roles of parliamentary parties. Any extraordinary action to nominate contestable candidates on behalf of opposition parties is suppressed. Electoral rights of citizens were defeated by administrative technology.
  2. CPRF came under pressure the most in the current election, as the share of regions where the party was able to register its candidates for gubernatorial elections has dropped from 81% in 2019 to 61% in 2020. Its candidates were rejected in five regions out of 18. It seems that Russian authorities see CPRF as the main opposition party, which is the most problematic opponent during election and has the most electoral potential. More telling still is the "success" of CPRF's two main spoilers—Communists of Russia and Communist Party of Social Justice (CPSJ, abbreviated in Russian as "KPSS" to mirror the Soviet Union party (CPSU)). Out of eight candidates nominated by these parties, only one was unable to pass the "municipal filter." 
  3. At least seven regions reveal traces of a "giveaway game" being played between the parliamentary parties, which is 40% of the overall number of campaigns (Komi Republic, Republic of Tatarstan, Chuvash Republic, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Bryansk Oblast, Smolensk Oblast and Jewish Autonomous Oblast). At least one parliamentary party withdrew from nominating its candidates in each of these regions. In three regions, the withdrawal was prompted by offers of senator seats for representatives of these parties.
  4. At the same time, there is a formal decline in United Russia's participation, whose candidates are nominated in 12 regions (67%). At this point, some "administrative candidates" prefer to run as independent candidates instead of using the "party of power" brand. That said, only "administrative candidates" were able to register as independent candidates in 2020, just like in 2019. Apart from them, 39 candidates tried to seize the same opportunity in 2019, with 25 candidates doing the same in 2020. No alternative independent candidates were able to register. In other words, out of 75 independent candidates only 11 were able to register over the two years—all of them were holding gubernatorial offices at the time.
  5. Candidates from minor parties, who were obviously lacking support from citizens, including the unreservedly "technical" candidates came to be used even more frequently than a year ago. In all 18 regions, election commissions registered at least one minor party candidate whereas in 2019 such candidates were running in 14 out or 16 regions. At the same time, Golos counted only 0.7% elected local deputies and heads nominated by parties not represented in State Duma in regions where elections are held. This number is six times lower than the CPRF number and three times lower than A Just Russia number. Nevertheless, it is parliamentary opposition representatives who were unable to secure registration in six out of 18 regions. This means that passing the "municipal filter" has nothing to do with nominating party's representation at the local level in the absolute majority of cases.
  6. This year it was elections in the Komi Republic and Arkhangelsk Oblast that had drawn special attention. These are the two regions where protests against building a landfill near the Shiyes railway station took place. The "municipal filter" turned out to be impenetrable for members of the social movement against building the landfill, who were also members of CPRF and Yabloko. Instead, registration was granted to members of green party called "Green Alternative," which the Ministry of Justice registered only in 2020.
  7. Regional application of the "municipal filter" (for example, see joint report on Perm Krai) proves that it is an entirely formal administrative mechanism managed by regional authorities that is used to select rival candidates for the regional leader currently in office (incumbent). The basic elements of this mechanism are as follows:
    — excessively high regulatory standards for submitting the number of deputy signatures together with a local quota equal to ¾ of the number of existing municipalities;
    — preemptive large-scale instantaneous collection of an excessive number of signatures in support of nominating the incumbent and his/her "technical" competitor, specially organized and managed by regional and local administration;
    — 100% sampling of deputy signatures from certain "top-level" legislatures or significant restrictions towards signature collection for certain candidates, to the extent of an unspoken embargo that effectively "blocks" the given territory and makes it impossible to meet one of the filter's conditions as a result;
    — ordering of settlements (clusterization) in order to pass "low-level" deputy signatures over to administration-appointed candidates, who, by intention of electoral managers, shall pass the "municipal filter";
    — incumbent's HQ collecting information on "signers" who put their signature in support of other candidates, especially on the so-called "secondary" or "doubled" signatures;
    — and finally, a "technical" candidate and/or incumbent themselves presenting the election commission with a number of "primary" signatures selected from the "doubled" signatures that is enough to make sure their main competitor(s) will fail to register.
  8. This year's feature was using the self-dissolution technology for a portion of district councils with high-level representation of opposition in two regions (Jewish Autonomous Oblast and Sevastopol). This became yet another obstacle for CPRF candidates on their way to secure the necessary territorial representation of top-level signatures in support of their nomination. Using such technology results in political rights of citizens residing on the territory being violated, as they are stripped of the results of their vote and local level representation. 
  9. The "municipal filter" remains a manipulation tool the authorities use to cut off strong competitors. All of these things limit actual political competition considerably and prevent citizens from counting on electoral ways of influencing the authorities and its rotation at the regional level.



1. The completed competition simulation model

Ever since their revival in 2012, gubernatorial elections provide ample material for analyzing the how the "municipal filter" influences the possibility of any real competition emerging as itself. In the intervening period (2012—2019), there were 126 gubernatorial elections, but out of the opposition parties, only CPRF had the necessary number of municipal deputies and municipal leaders elected by the people in order to go through the filter unaided, and only in certain regions. 

Part of the blame definitely lies on the political parties themselves, who are insufficiently active and successful in participating in local elections. The weekly election monitoring organized by Golos shows that United Russia is the only party trying to run in almost every type of local election. The analysis of local election that took place on Unified Election Day a year ago paints the same picture—United Russia nominated one and a half times the number of candidates that all the rest of the parties combined. CPRF was able to nominate five times less parties. 

Ever since it was created, the "municipal filter" was unable to solve any of the issues that were publicized by its supporters: barring candidates with no voter support from running in the election; cutting off candidates that have nothing to do with the region; promoting party activity at a local level. 

However, introducing the "municipal filter" halts the development of the party system or local government. The number of "outsiders" acting in gubernatorial positions has not decreased. Potential competitors who are well-known and have voter support are cut off on a regular basis, yet little-known individuals are consistent in successfully passing the filter. For example, out of 55 gubernatorial candidates who placed second and below, 34 (62%) gained less than 5% votes in the 2019 elections. Out of 34, 19 candidates (34.5%) gained less than 3% (there were candidates who got even less than 1%). 

In order to assess a candidate's chances of passing the "municipal filter" without clearing the registration with the "party of power," we need to understand how many municipal deputies and elected local leaders a political party has in each particular region. Obtaining such data is not an easy task, as the generalized lists of acting local deputies and elected leaders are not published anywhere. In many cases, there is no way of finding relevant data even on the website of a corresponding government agency, if such a website exists at all.

For that reason, Golos has been analyzing municipal-level election results in the corresponding regions in a five-year retrospect for the second year in a row. Table 1 displays data on the number of local deputies and leaders elected over the past five years. There is no doubt the table allows for some margin of error in view of the fact that some deputies may have resigned or changed party affiliation. Nevertheless, this data provides a clear enough picture of the real power dynamics at the local level and shows whether major parties are capable of passing the "municipal filter" unaided.  

The table does not include the data on Perm Krai, as the margin of error caused by the municipal reform initiated in the region is extremely high. The reform forced many elected local bodies to dissolve earlier than it was expected. 

The present data is relevant as on June 8, as the CEC of Russia is attempting to restrain data sourcing from their website starting from July 1.

Table 1. The number of elected municipal leaders and deputies (13 September 2015–8 June 2020)

Region

Required amount of municipal signatures

United Russia

Independents

CPRF

LDPR

A Just Russia

Other parties

Komi Republic

180

1338

426

65

46

73

6

Republic of Tatarstan

387

6249

763

307

186

219

176

Chuvash Republic

263

3359

344

68

4

24

5

Kamchatka Krai

58

456

140

10

9

1

0

Krasnodar Krai

776

6663

553

260

288

97

71

Arkhangelsk Oblast

189

1427

409

117

99

129

8

Bryansk Oblast

215

2816

53

119

162

32

17

Irkutsk Oblast

252

3194

1017

556

127

123

16

Kaluga Oblast

132

2123

326

55

17

4

3

Kostroma Oblast

114

1339

189

88

91

30

1

Leningrad Oblast

155

1529

316

134

54

57

5

Penza Oblast

253

3174

104

76

35

33

7

Rostov Oblast

228

3556

607

203

33

124

23

Smolensk Oblast

140

2195

350

140

148

17

6

Tambov Oblast

183

2467

63

42

24

36

17

Jewish Autonomous Oblast

27

241

107

22

11

1

0

Sevastopol

9

76

14

13

4

11

2


The table shows that the situation has not exactly changed since the year before. At that time, CPRF was the only party with the sufficient amount of "proper" signatures, and it had them in Sakhalin Oblast (that said, the table does not consider the "multi-layered" feature of the filter—the number of deputies and leaders of various levels and their geographic distribution). This time, CPRF had a sufficient overall number of signatures to meet one of the filter's requirements in Irkutsk Oblast an a close number in Smolensk Oblast. LDPR could have also been able to secure enough deputies in Smolensk Oblast (United Russia stays out of the equation in all cases, as it clearly dominates the local level). 

Besides, it is worth noting the large number of independent candidates in the regions that could in theory have corrected the signature deficiency for candidates. 

Another detail that sticks out is the minuscule share of elected deputies and municipal leaders nominated by the "second tier" parties. It amounts to less than 0.7% from the overall number of elected representatives. This number is six times lower than the CPRF number and three times lower than A Just Russia number. 

Nevertheless, candidates from smaller parties, who were unknown to the general public, were able to pass the "municipal filter" in all regions in the 2020 elections. At the same time, parliamentary opposition candidates were unable to pass the filter in six regions out of 18 (a third): Komi Republic, Kamchatka Krai, Perm Krai, Sevastopol, Leningrad Oblast and Jewish Autonomous Oblast.

This means that passing the "municipal filter" has nothing to do with nominating party's representation at the local level in the absolute majority of cases. 

Table 2 shows that at registration stage, it was Russia's second strongest party—CPRF— that lost the most candidates in absolute terms. Its candidates were rejected in five regions: Komi Republic, Kamchatka Krai, Leningrad Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast and Sevastopol. 

Table 2. The results of gubernatorial candidate nomination by subjects of nomination and regions


Subject of nomination

Nominated

Registered

Not registered

Notes

United Russia

12

12

0

No nominations in Smolensk Oblast and regions where "administrative candidates" went as independent candidates

CPRF

16

11

5

Rejections: Komi Republic, Kamchatka Krai, Leningrad Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Sevastopol; Not nominated: Republic of Tatarstan, Arkhangelsk Oblast,

LDPR

16

16

0

Not nominated: Bryansk Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast

A Just Russia

16

15

1

Rejections: Perm Krai; No nominations: Komi and Chuvash Republics

"Administrative" independents

5

5

0

Nominated: Komi Republic, Chuvash Republic, Kamchatka Krai, Perm Krai, Irkutsk Oblast

Other independents

25

0

25

Nominated: Chuvash Republic (8), Kamchatka Krai (5), Perm Krai (2), Irkutsk Oblast (10) 

Patriots of Russia

6

6

0

Nominated and registered: Chuvash Republic, Kamchatka and Perm Krais, Rostov Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Sevastopol

Party of Growth

4

4

0

Nominated and registered: Republic of Tatarstan, Kamchatka and Krasnodar Krai, Kaluga Oblast

Yabloko

2

0

2

Nominated: Arkhangelsk and Kostroma Oblasts

DPR

4

1

3

Nominated: Kamchatka Krai, Kostroma Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Sevastopol; Registered: Sevastopol

Communists of Russia

2

2

0

Nominated and registered: Republic of Tatarstan, Smolensk Oblast

"The Greens"

1

0

1

Nominated: Jewish Autonomous Oblast

"For Justice"

3

0

3

Nominated: Kamchatka Krai, Kostroma and Smolensk Oblasts

Progress Party

4

1

3

Nominated: Kamchatka Krai, Kostroma Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Sevastopol; Registered: Sevastopol

CPSJ

6

5

1

Nominated: Komi Republic, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Irkutsk Oblast, Kaluga Oblast, Tambov Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast; Not registered: Tambov Oblast

Party of Social Security

3

0

3

Nominated: Perm Krai, Leningrad and Rostov Oblasts

Party of Pensioners

4

4

0

Nominated and registered: Chuvash Republic, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Kostroma Oblast, Penza Oblast

Civic Platform

4

3

1

Nominated: Kamchatka Krai, Bryansk Oblast, Irkutsk Oblast, Leningrad Oblast; Not registered: Kamchatka Krai

Russian All-People's Union

1

0

1

Nominated: Kamchatka Krai

Rodina

3

2

1

Nominated: Irkutsk Oblast, Leningrad Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast; Not registered: Leningrad Oblast

"Cossack Party"

4

2

2

Nominated: Bryansk Oblast, Kostroma Oblast, Smolensk Oblast, Tambov Oblast; Registered: Bryansk and Tambov Oblast

Russian United Labour Front

1

0

1

Nominated: Perm Krai

"People Against Corruption"

1

0

1

Nominated: Sevastopol

International Party of Russia

1

0

1

Nominated: Bryansk Oblast

"Party of Good Deeds"

1

0

1

Nominated: Arkhangelsk Oblast

"Green Alternative"

2

2

0

Nominated and registered: Komi Republic, Arkhangelsk Oblast


In Komi Republic, registration was denied to Oleg Mikhailov, a City Council deputy and one of the organizers of anti-landfill protests in Shiyes. Oleg Mikhailov filed 185 signatures to the required 180. However, on August 6, Komi Republic election commission rendered 16 signatures in support of a communist candidate invalid (see below). 

In Kamchatka Krai, registration was denied to Valerii Bykov, a legislative assembly deputy. He filed 59 municipal deputy signatures in his support (at the 58 required for registration). However, these signatures were collected in only eight municipal districts and urban districts out of the required 11 municipalities. According to CPRF, reaching this bar became impossible after in four out of 14 municipal districts, each and every deputy signature was collected in support of Vladimir Solodov, governor ad interim.

Since it had been impossible to meet the local quota, registration was also denied to CPRF candidates Roman Kiyashko (Sevastopol) and Maksim Kukushkin (Jewish Autonomous Oblast, see Section 2).

In Leningrad Oblast, Vadim Grishkov was nominated as a gubernatorial candidate, yet CPRF claimed that deputies were put under administrative pressure that prevented them from putting signatures in his support. 

Among the remaining parliamentary parties, only one A Just Russia candidate faced rejection: in Perm Krai, the "municipal filter" cut off Aleksandr Repin, a prominent businessman who was considered as the main rival for the governor ad interim Dmitry Makhonin. He filed the maximum possible 107 signatures, 56 out of which were the "top-level" deputy signatures from 37 territories, but only 101 from 31 territories were validated (at a required minimum of 50 "top-level" deputy signatures from 35 territories). On July 31,  a session of municipal deputy signature verification work group took place. Verification process revealed that six signatures of candidate Repin were doubled with signatures of the governor ad interim Dmitry Makhonin, which the latter collected sooner (mostly on June 17), meaning Repin's signatures were "doubled."

As a result, this year saw a somewhat changed attitude towards parliamentary parties on behalf of election managers. If a year ago the rejection rate was just two or three candidates per each of the three parliamentary opposition parties, this year it was only CPRF that suffered any significant losses (if we discard the Aleksandr Repin case). Considering that no communist candidates were nominated in two regions (Republic of Tatarstan and Arkhangelsk Oblast), CPRF candidates formally run for gubernatorial offices in 11 regions out of 18 (61%) where the direct gubernatorial elections are held. Russian authorities see CPRF as the main opposition party that is most capable of complicating the elections.

As for the "second tier" parties, a rejection case that deserves attention is one in Arkhangelsk Oblast, which is the case of gubernatorial nominee Oleg Mandrykin—one of the leaders of the anti-landfill protests in Shiyes—who filed 198 signatures of municipal deputies and elected local leaders (with the required minimum at 189). However, signatures were collected only in 20 territories out of 21 required. There were also 23 "doubled" signatures that reduced local representation to 10 regional and urban districts. 

As a result, candidates in Arkhangelsk Oblast and Komi Republic who were supported by the anti-landfill movement in Shiyes—an extremely important grassroots movement in these regions—were unable to get registered. Instead there was an attempt to simulate electoral participation of green activists in both regions. Candidates from the party "Green Alternative" were granted registration there: Aiman Tyukina in Arkhangelsk Oblast and Viktor Betekhtin in the Komi Republic. Aiman Tyukina is a co-chair at All-Russia People's Front branch in Arkhangelsk Oblast, who criticized the anti-landfill protests and was named honorary ecologist of Arkhangelsk Oblast in December 2019. Viktor Betekhtin is the head of the Komi Republic Rugby Union. He admitted to the media that the party's regional activist group amounts to just "a few dozen people." 

As usual, CPRF is the one suffering from its spoilers. Communists of Russia candidates were registered in the Republic of Tatarstan and Smolensk Oblast. CPSJ candidates were registered in the Komi Republic, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Irkutsk Oblast, Kaluga Oblast and Jewish Autonomous Oblast. That said, if Communists of Russia do have activist groups that split off CPRF in certain regions, CPSJ is a simulacrum at its finest. Out of eight candidates nominated by these parties, only one was unable to pass the "municipal filter." This is a stark contrast to the issues the "main" communists are facing during this campaign. 

Among the parties that were able to register all of their candidates are Patriots of Russia (six regions: Chuvash Republic, Kamchatka Krai, Perm Krai, Rostov Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Sevastopol), Party of Growth (four regions: Republic of Tatarstan, Kamchatka Krai, Krasnodar Krai, Kaluga Oblast), RPPSJ (four regions: Chuvash Republic, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Kostroma Oblast and Penza Oblast). The following parties achieved fairly good results in registering their candidates: Civic Platform (three regions out of four: Bryansk Oblast, Irkutsk Oblast and Leningrad Oblast), Rodina (two regions out of three: Irkutsk Oblast and Jewish Autonomous Oblast) and Cossack Party (two regions out of four: Bryansk Oblast and Tambov Oblast).

Minor parties were able to register a total of 32 candidates (see Table 3), meaning that more than a half of their nominated candidates (57) is a share comparable to that of CPRF in the current election (56% and 69% respectively). 

Table 3. Party candidate registration results in regions


Region

UR

Independents

LDPR

JR

CPRF

CPCR

CPSJ

PoR

RPPSJ

Rodina

CosPRF

Party of Growth

DPR

PoP

CP

Green Alt.

Komi Republic

+

+

+

+

Republic of Tatarstan

+

+

+

+

+

Chuvash Republic

+

+

+

+

+

Kamchatka Krai

+

+

+

+

+

Krasnodar Krai

+

+

+

+

+

Perm Krai

+

+

+

+

Arkhangelsk Oblast

+

+

+

+

+

+

Bryansk Oblast

+

+

+

+

+

Irkutsk Oblast

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

Kaluga Oblast

+

+

+

+

+

+

Kostroma Oblast

+

+

+

+

+

Leningrad Oblast

+

+

+

+

Penza Oblast

+

+

+

+

+

Rostov Oblast

+

+

+

+

+

Smolensk Oblast

+

+

+

+

Tambov Oblast

+

+

+

+

+

Sevastopol

+

+

+

+

+

+

Jewish Autonomous Oblast

+

+

+

+

+


Independent candidate nomination is worth examining as well. As can be seen in Figure 1, there were only two independent nomination peaks before 2019—in 2013 and 2018 (both happened during the Moscow mayoral elections, where Sergei Sobyanin ran as an independent candidate while "opening the door" to other candidates. Besides him, the "administrative" candidates who resorted to independent nomination were only Nikita Belykh in Kirov Oblast, Aleksei Dyumin in Tula Oblast and Aleksandr Burkov (A Just Russia member) in Omsk Oblast).


In 2018, however, the authorities were faced with a high disapproval rating of United Russia in certain regions, which prompted them to use independent nomination mechanism for the benefit of their own candidates. In that event, regional legislations were amended at the last minute—before the start of the campaign. All of this was framed as a step towards increasing competition and giving unaffiliated citizens a chance to run in the election. 

In reality, only "administrative candidates" were able to register as independent candidates in both 2019 and 2020. Apart from them, 39 candidates tried to seize the same opportunity in 2019, with 25 candidates doing the same in 2020. No alternative independent candidates were able to pass the municipal filter. In other words, out of 75 independent candidates only 11 were able to register over the two years—all of them were holding gubernatorial offices at the time.

Every year, the "giveaway game" scenario between major political parties is given special attention when analyzing gubernatorial elections. This year, there are much less blatant cases of said scenario than there were last year. United Russia did not nominate a candidate (including an "independent" one) in Smolensk Oblast, which has been "reserved" for LDPR since 2012, and in the Chuvash Republic, where an A Just Russia's governor ad interim Oleg Nikolayev is running as an independent candidate.

CPRF agreed to a senator seat for Arkhangelsk Oblast governor, appointing its State Duma deputy Aleksandr Nekrasov. The decision to refrain from nominating any candidates in the Republic of Tatarstan was affirmed by the regional Central Committee of CPRF. Khafiz Mirgalimov, First Secretary of the republican committee of CPRF pointed out that a CPRF candidate would be unable to beat the acting president Rustam Minnikhanov, who holds "great credibility" in the region.

LDPR refrained from nominating candidates in Bryansk Oblast and Jewish Autonomous Oblast (the party was the runner-up in the last regional elections in both regions). In Bryansk Oblast, LDPR's State Duma deputy Vadim Dengin was put on the "senator list." The party named its inability to pass the "municipal filter" as the reason for refraining from nomination in Jewish Autonomous Oblast (although this factor did not stop LDPR in other regions). At the same time, some experts presume LDPR's rating in the Jewish Autonomous Republic was so high that it could definitely compete for victory.

In Komi Republic, State Duma Deputy Speaker Olga Yepifanova (A Just Russia) took the spot on the "senator list." 

As a result, there are seven regions (40% of the total number of campaigns) where parliamentary parties obviously have certain agreements with each other: Komi Republic, Republic of Tatarstan, Chuvash Republic, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Bryansk Oblast, Smolensk Oblast and Jewish Autonomous Oblast. In some of these regions (in Komi Republic, Arkhangelsk Oblast and Jewish Autonomous Oblast especially), the authorities clearly suffer from insufficient support.

It is therefore possible to indicate certain trends that emerge for the second year in a row. CPRF is being gradually pushed out of the electoral field, as the share of regions where the party was able to register its candidates for gubernatorial elections has dropped from 81% to 61%. At the same time, there is a formal decline in United Russia's participation, whose candidates are nominated in 12 regions (67% of campaigns). 

At this point, some "administrative candidates" prefer to run as independent candidates instead of using the "party of power" brand. For other politicians, however, the option of registering and running as independent candidates remains out of reach. The participation levels of minor parties that do not have any tangible voter support remain high. Such parties also include spoilers for the real political powers (for CPRF and green parties this time). In certain regions, major parties have concluded secret agreements. There is enough evidence to assert that the political competition simulation model in the gubernatorial election has indeed formed completely. 



2. The "municipal filter" as a deliberate way to cut off candidates from running in the election

As we have pointed out before, there are enough locally elected independents in the regions, who could correct the signature deficiency for candidates without the latter having to turn to United Russia for aid. However, this data does not consider the structure of the "municipal filter," which is in fact tripartite: a candidate has to collect a strictly specified amount of "top-level" (municipal or urban districts) and "low-level" (rural or urban settlements) deputy signatures, and the signers also have to represent at least ¾ of municipal districts. The general rules is that opposition candidates struggle the most when it comes to collecting "top-level" signatures.

The current election is no exception. We have analyzed party affiliations of deputies from "top-level" representative bodies of municipal entities in four regions (in these regions, most representative bodies are built through direct elections while heads and heads ad interim were nominated by United Russia candidates). 

Their party affiliation was determined based on who nominated them for deputy elections. The results of the analysis can be found in Table 4.

Table 4. The structure of signatures put by urban, municipal and in-city district heads and deputies in support of gubernatorial candidates


Region

Candidate

Party*

The number of signers picked out

from UR

from their own party

from other parties

as independents

Bryansk Oblast

A.G. Arkhitsky

CPRF

2

49

0

0

D.Yu. Kornilov

CP

53

0

0

0

S.N. Kurdenko

JR

42

9

0

1

S.V. Chernyshov

CosPRF

53

0

0

0

Kaluga Oblast**

A.P. Abrosimov

CPSJ

18

0

0

1

Ye.M. Yefanova

PoG

19

0

0

0

N.I. Yefremova

JR

18

0

0

1

S.S. Oparyshev

LDPR

16

0

0

3

N.I. Yashkin

CPRF

14

4

0

2

Penza Oblast

A.Ye. Vasilyev

LDPR

36

6

0

1

A.V. Ochkina

JR

36

4

0

2

P.P. Chugai

RPPSJ

41

0

0

1

O.V. Shalyapin

CPRF

27

13

0

3

Jewish Autonomous Oblast

V.S. Borodin

PoP

2

0

0

5

R.E. Goldshtein

UR

6

2

0

V.N. Dudin

JR

7

1

0

0

A.A. Krupsky

CPSJ

6

0

1

1

R.P. Kuzemsky

PoR

8

0

0

0

M.V. Kukushkin

CPRF

0

8

0

0

Ye.V. Pasternak

DPR

5

0

0

2

B.P. Tikhonov

Rodina

8

0

0

0

G.V. Fidorina

"The Greens"

6

0

1

0


* Abbreviations: CP — Civic Platform, DPR — Democratic Party of Russia, UR — United Russia, CPSJ — Communist Party of Social Justice, CosPRF — Cossack Party of Russian Federation, PoR — Patriots of Russia, PoP — Party of Progress, PoG — Party of Growth, RPPSJ — Russian Party of Pensioners for Social Justice, JR — A Just Russia.

** Without municipal districts where representative bodies are built through delegating.

Signatures of United Russia members prevail in most cases. The only exception is CPRF in Bryansk Oblast and Jewish Autonomous Oblast. In the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, the CPRF candidate managed to do without United Russia's signatures, yet it was there that he was rejected (see below). With that said, in Kaluga and Penza Oblasts, both CPRF and other candidates obtained the majority of signatures from United Russia deputies.

The situation is different in all four regions. 

Penza Oblast

In Penza Oblast, most district Deputy Assemblies were elected on 10 September 2017 by plurality voting (mixed electoral system was only used in the city of Penza). Out of 504 elected deputies, 428 represent United Russia, 27 represent CPRF, 10 represent A Just Russia, 6 represent LDPR, one represents RPPSJ and 32 deputies are independent. The required amount of top-level deputy signatures is 42, and they have to represent at least 23 regional and urban districts. As a result, United Russia is the only party that has the required number of deputies. On top of this, seven out of 30 district assemblies are completely dominated by United Russia deputies. As a result, the opportunity for the parties to do without United Russia signatures is reduced to a minimum. This is why United Russia signatures are the most prevalent among all candidates. It should be noted that out of 32 independent deputies, all opposition candidates combined used the signatures of only seven.

Bryansk Oblast

In Bryansk Oblast, all district and city councils are formed by mixed electoral system. Many of them were elected on 8 September 2019. Out of 722 deputies, 586 represent United Russia, 60 represent CPRF, 50 represent LDPR, 18 represent A Just Russia, 2 represent Rodina. Party of Growth and Civic Platform are represented by one deputy each, and only four were elected as independents. The required amount of collected signatures stood at 51, and they had to represent at least 24 regional and urban districts. CPRF managed to do this task fairly easily, with only two United Russia signatures (which were arguably unnecessary). LDPR decided against nominating a candidate despite having a decent enough chance at passing the filter (although it is unlikely they would be able to have done so without United Russia's aid).

A Just Russia candidate had to essentially rely on United Russia signatures. Civic Platform and Cossack Party candidates, on the other hand, were simply provided with 100% United Russia signatures without using either independents or LDPR deputies (who did not put their signatures for any opposition candidates).

Kaluga Oblast

A similar situation unfolded in Kaluga Oblast, but there are six districts where assemblies are formed through delegation—these cases were not analyzed. Only Kaluga's City Duma was formed by mixed electoral system, which consists of all four parliamentary parties and Yabloko. There is an interesting development, however: none of the five candidates has any signatures from Kaluga deputies.

In other district assemblies (including Obninsk City Assembly) that were elected through direct election (mostly on 13 September 2015), there are neither LDPR nor A Just Russia representatives. 226 deputies represent United Russia, 11 represent CPRF and 27 were elected as independents. Five district assemblies are dominated by United Russia alone. There is no way to do without United Russia signatures in such a situation. However, we also see that opposition candidates were able to secure only seven signatures from the 27 independents.

Jewish Autonomous Oblast

Jewish Autonomous Oblast is perhaps the most telling example of the way the municipal filter works (or at least how the part that involves "top-level" deputies does). There are only five municipal districts and one urban district (the administrative center Birobidzhan) in the region. District and Birobidzhan assemblies consist of 100 deputies (99 at the moment), the required amount of signatures is 7%, or at least 7 signatures. Three fourth of 6 is 4.5, which means a candidate has to collect signatures from at least five "top-level" municipal entities. This means that if a candidate does not have deputy signatures from only two district assemblies, everything else is irrelevant, as he or she will not pass the filter.

Only one district assembly (of the Birobidzhan District) is elected by mixed electoral system, all the remaining district assemblies and Birobidzhan City Duma are elected by plurality voting. The Deputy Assembly of Birobidzhansky District was elected in September 2018, with the rest elected in September 2019. The party affiliation of the deputies is as follows: 60 from United Russia, 19 from CPRF, five from LDPR, three from A Just Russia and 12 independents. This context means that CPRF is the main opposition force in the region (although LDPR gained a little more votes than CPRF did in the 2016 State Duma and Autonomous Oblast Legislative Assembly elections).

However, the distribution patern of CPRF deputies is irregular: five deputies in the city of Birobidzhansky and Obluchensky District each, four deputies in Birobidzhan and Oktyabr Districts each, one in Leninsky District and none in Smidovichsky District.

This time, nine candidates at once were nominated in this small region: from United Russia, CPRF, A Just Russia, Patriots of Russia, Rodina, REP "The Greens", CPSJ, Democratic Party of Russia and Party of Progress (the last three parties are affiliated with political strategist Andrei Bogdanov). However, the first fact that sticks out is that LDPR (the 2016 runner-up in the region) did not nominate a candidate. The second fact is that there are only 14 registered party offices in the region, yet only five nominated candidates. Four more parties that nominated candidates do not have regional offices. These are Rodina and the "Bogdanov" three. We should also mention that the 2016 support level for Patriots of Russia, Rodina and REP "The Greens" in the region stood between 0.4 and 1%. The third fact is that it looks like one of the "technical" candidates (Democratic Party of Russia) turned out to be a political strategist, which barely happens in Russian elections. Yevgenia Pasternak is listed as one of the laureates for the 2019 prize awarded by the Russian Political Consultants Association. She won the prize as part of the team that has been working in the Far East elections and serving the interests of public authorities for many years (for example, the team worked with Andrei Tarasenko in the 2018 Primorsky Krai gubernatorial election). 

The result of collecting "top-level" deputy signatures was that candidates from United Russia, A Just Russia, Patriots of Russia, Rodina and CPSJ filed eight signatures each from five municipal entities. The CPRF candidate filed eight signatures as well, yet only from three municipal entities, which was not enough to get registered. Candidates from REP "The Greens", Democratic Party of Russia (DPR) and Party of Progress filed seven signatures each from three districts.

It should be noted that all eight signatures for the CPRF candidate were collected from CPRF deputies. United Russia candidate (governor ad interim) collected six signatures from United Russia deputies and one signature from both CPRF and LDPR. A Just Russia candidate collected seven United Russia signatures and only one signature from his own party. Both Patriots of Russia and Rodina candidates collected all eight signatures from United Russia. CPSJ candidate collected six United Russia signatures, one CPRF signature and one independent signature. REP "The Greens" candidate collected six United Russia signatures and one LDPR signature. DPR candidate collected five United Russia signatures and two independent signatures. Party of Progress candidate collected two United Russia signatures and five independent signatures.

Now it is essential that we examine the geographic coverage for candidates. Let us begin with Smidovichsky District, where the Deputy Assembly consists of 12 deputies from United Russia, two from LDPR and one independent deputy. United Russia candidate filed one LDPR signature, candidates from A Just Russia, Patriots of Russia and Rodina filed one United Russia signature each, CPSJ candidate filed two United Russia signatures, REP "The Greens" candidate filed two United Russia signatures and one LDPR signature, DPR candidate filed three United Russia signatures, Party of Growth candidate filed two United Russia signatures and one independent signatures. All 15 deputies were picked out. There were no more "spare" signatures for the CPRF candidate.

Deputy Assembly of Leninsky District consists of nine United Russia deputies, one CPRF deputy and four independent deputies. Here, the United Russia candidate collected the only CPRF signature (we can only guess about the reason for such "treason"). Candidates from A Just Russia, Patriots of Russia, Rodina and CPSJ collected one United Russia signature each. REP "The Greens" candidate collected three United Russia signatures. DPR candidate collected two United Russia signatures and one independent signature. Party of Progress candidate collected three independent signatures. All 14 candidates were picked out in this case as well, and the CPRF candidate was left with nothing once more.

This is as far as the situation goes. It did not matter how many signatures the CPRF candidate had collected in other areas: he would not have been legally able to register without deputy signatures from two districts.

Moreover, 1 June 2020 was the date when Deputy Assembly of Oktyabrsky District decided it would dissolve. The decision was initiated by 10 United Russia deputies. CPRF had four deputies in that Assembly. As a result, the CPRF candidate lost four district deputy signatures at once and the district altogether. 

It is revealing that candidates from REP "The Greens," DPR and Party of Progress did not use the district deputy signatures, which was exactly what they needed to pass the "municipal filter." For example, DPR and Party of Progress did not have any signatures from Birobidzhansky Districs, while REP "The Greens" had none from Obluchensky District.

Here we have to add that there are 20 deputies in Birobidzhan, yet only 12 signatures were utilized: United Russia and A Just Russia candidates received two signatures each, CPRF candidate received five signatures and candidates from Patriots of Russia, Rodina and CPSJ received one signature each. Not all deputy signatures were picked out in Birobidzhansky and Obluchensky Districts. However, the three parties did not collect signatures from these municipal entities, thus failing to secure necessary geographic coverage. This is particularly true for the city of Birobidzhan, where the deputies are easily located as compared to those scattered across rural settlements.

It is easy to figure out that these candidates were not seeking to get registered. Their mission was to pick out signatures from two districts to prevent the CPRF candidate from getting registered. The mission was successful, as they received three signatures in each of these districts.

Sevastopol

An even more absurd situation unfolded in the city of Sevastopol. The city consists of 10 municipalities, where 120 deputies were elected in 2016. Therefore, in order to pass the "municipal filter," a candidate had to collect 12 signatures from eight municipalities. However, shortly before the start of the election, the councils of two major municipalities were dissolved by court order after United Russia deputies had resigned. The party claimed re-election was needed for municipalities to assume new powers granted to them by the amended Constitution (looks like United Russia deputies from other municipalities do not seem to think so). 

Following this event, Sevastopol Election Commission reduced the number of signatures required for registration from 12 to 9. At the same time, the Commission did not reduce the number of municipal entities these signatures were supposed to come from, so it remained at eight. 

CPRF candidate Roman Kiyashko claimed that CPRF had 10 deputies in Sevastopol before the council dissolution, although 12 CPRF candidates won the 2016 election. However, four of them worked right in the dissolved Gagarinsky and Leninsky Districts.

As a result, Roman Kiyashko collected nine signatures (all validated), but was unable to meet the "local representation" requirement, as he filed signatures only from six municipalities. According to Kiyashko, there were simply no signatures left for him in two municipalities, and in one of them he was refused by a fellow party member who already gave his signature to another candidate. 

There is a clause in the Federal Law "On General Principles Governing the Organisation of Legislative (Representative) and Executive Bodies of State Power in the Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation" that goes as follows: "If at the date of the decision to schedule an election for the highest office of the constituent entity of the Russian Federation (the head of the supreme executive government body of the constituent entity of the Russian Federation), the representative body for the municipal entity is not formed and (or) the head of the municipal entity is not elected, including in the context of early termination of said office, the number of deputies of such representative body stipulated by the charter of the municipal entity, and (or) the head of said municipal entity shall not be considered when establishing the number of individuals necessary to endorse a candidate." However, there is no similar clause regarding the quota of 3/4 districts. 

As a result, the candidates in Jewish Autonomous Oblast and Sevastopol alike had to collect signatures from all regional and urban districts with active legislatures. The result was that five out of five areas had to be covered in Jewish Autonomous Oblast, while in Sevastopol the number of said aread was eight out of eight. In theory, if one more council was dissolved in each region, no one would be able to pass the filter. 

This is a new cynical technology that creates additional obstacles for candidates trying to pass the "municipal filter," which in turn strips voters of the corresponding areas of representation as their electoral choice is "zeroed" as a result.

Other issues with passing the "municipal filter"

As we pointed out before, candidates in other regions encountered problems while trying to secure municipal deputy signatures from the ¾ of municipal and urban districts: Valerii Bykov (CPRF) in Kamchatka Krai, Oleg Mandrykin (Yabloko) in Arkhangelsk Oblast, Aleksandr Repin (A Just Russia) in Perm Krai. 

A number of rejected candidates claimed that centralized signature collection in support of the main "administrative" candidate and his/her "technical candidates" had been organized in order to prevent said candidates from getting registered. 

On July 6, the Electoral Commission of the Komi Republic held a session where commission member Andrei Nikulin claimed that municipal deputy signatures for Uiba, Ponomaryov, Betekhtin and Nikitin were collected at the same time by the same notaries. In the meantime, none of the four "administrative" candidates had "doubled" signatures. In the similar context, the Election Commission's signature verification work group discarded 16 signatures for CPRF candidate Oleg Mikhailov. The signatures contained the following errors: 14 were discarded on the grounds that the same signatures had been put in support of other candidates earlier than they were put for Mikhailov. One of the signatures belonged to an individual who had already resigned as deputy, and a month before putting the signature for Mikhailov at that. Two signatures were discarded because the notaries put "February 2020" as the date, allegedly collecting the signatures before the official starting date. 

At the same time, Oleg Mikhailov and his office claimed that representatives of candidate Vladimir Uiba collected more signatures than the allowed excess (which stands at 10%). Yabloko candidate Aleksandr Lazutin reported all signatures being blocked across ten areas of Kostroma Oblast. 

At a press conference held on August 4, Perm Krai gubernatorial candidate Aleksandr Repin and head of regional office for A Just Russia claimed that municipal deputies came under administrative pressure while attempting to support the A Just Russia candidate. Signatures in support of Dmitry Makhonin were collected in most areas on the first day, June 17, between 10 AM and 12 PM (for more details, see the joint regional report "Analysis of Lists of the Individuals Who Put Their Signatures in Support of Gubernatorial Candidates in Perm Krai").

In this regard, Golos would like to recall its recommendations on publishing notarial register data, names of municipal leaders and deputies who put their signatures in support of gubernatorial candidates.

Administrative pressure regarding deputies and municipal leaders

Komi Republic candidate Oleg Mikhailov also claimed facing administrative pressure while collecting municipal deputy signatures in support of his candidacy for head of the Komi Republic. He stated that the deputies were made to disown their signatures in support of his candidacy after the call "from upstairs", while the notaries were pressured not to certify deputy signatures. Mikhailov encountered such situations in Sysolsky, Izhemsky, Ust-Vymsky Districts as well as other districts and cities of the Komi Republic. 

Irkutsk Oblast gubernatorial candidate Yevgeni Yumashev (who is also the mayor of Bodaybo) reported a similar problem (according to some sources, Yumashev was endorsed by ex-governor Sergei Levchenko). According to Yumashev, the regional government calls up municipal leaders and makes demands for organizing deputy signature collection in order to help Irkutsk Oblast governor ad interim Igor Kobzev pass the "municipal filter" as well as some candidates from LDPR and A Just Russia. 

Similar complaints were received from Andrei Arkhitsky and Sergei Maslov, candidates from Bryansk Oblast.

Claims of pressure from the "higher-ups" were made by Rasul Zinurov, municipal deputy for Orndinsky Municipal District of Perm Krai, at a press-conference held by unregistered candidate Aleksandr Repin, when this United Russia candidate decided to support the nomination of the candidate from A Just Russia. 

Since its introduction 8 years ago, the "municipal filter" skeptics have been pointing out that this mechanism easily allows for blocking the necessary amount of signatures to prevent a candidate undesirable for authorities from getting registered. In 2020, the mechanism ended up as clear as ever.

The advocates argue that one of the main incentives behind introducing the municipal filter is that it prompts parties to work at the municipal level and only allows parties that do such work to run in the election. However, we can clearly observe that a candidate from a party with 19% of municipal deputies does not pass the filter while the parties without any deputies do so easily—all courtesy of the "party of power," for whom this is the way to decide which opposition candidates are allowed to run in the election. The party naturally opts for weaker candidates. 

Golos believes that the "municipal filter" must be abolished.

Authors:

  • Stanislav Andreichuk,
  • Arkadii Lyubarev.

Editing group and long-term observation group:

Aleksandr Grezev, Ivan Dernov, Aleksandr Zamaryanov, Sofiya Ivanova, David Kankiya, Vitaly Kovin, Yuri Kuchin, Grigory Melkonyants, Aleksei Petrov, Natalya Romanchenko, Mikhail Tikhonov, Denis Shadrin.