Staunton, May 15 – Two days ago, the Russian Duma approved two bills, one on third reading, the other on second, that make it even easier for the powers that be to falsify elections, Grigory Melkonyants says. Together, they make May 13th “a black day” for Russian elections and Russian democracy.
The vice president of the Golos voting rights group says that the new laws will not only make it easier to block anyone the regime doesn’t approve of from running but also, by introducing various methods for voting outside of polling stations, to corrupt elections as such (newizv.ru/article/general/15-05-2020/golosuy-ne-golosuy-gosduma-uprostila-vozmozhnost-falsifikatsii-vyborov).
He makes five points. First, under the new laws, those seeking to become candidates can be denied that possibility if five percent of the signatures on their petitions are found to be fraudulent, not the ten percent that were required up to now. Moreover, the rules about signatures have been toughened. And these changes will make it easier for officials to deny registration.
Second, the new laws give the election commissions far greater latitude to allow for the setting up of special voting places without notice, thus reducing the ability of election monitors to follow what is taking place and making it far easier for the election officials to stuff ballot boxes or destroy voting papers.
Third, the new laws allow election officials to act without legal supervision in extending voting by mail and electronic voting. In the past, such things required the passing of new laws that could be monitored. Now, they can be done by order and out of sight of those who seek to monitor elections.
Fourth, the new laws deny the franchise to ever larger groups of people by expanding the list of crimes that can keep people from voting and virtually inviting the authorities to charge people with these minor offenses to block them from voting or running as candidates, again opening a door for falsification.
And fifth, in a move that could have been positive but that opens the way for other abuses, Melkonyants says, the new laws provide for the distribution of petition forms but that step forward is vitiated by the possibility that the forms themselves may contain errors that the election commissions will then use against potential candidates.