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The Parliament (State Duma) elections in the Russian Federation were recently held, with significant violations of democratic electoral processes. Of key concern are the widespread manipulations of the vote count, which significantly altered the election results.
Independent analysts estimate the number of fake ballots for the ruling United Russia party at around 13.8 million (26% of the total 52.2 million ballots cast). This has allowed the United Russia party to retain a constitutional majority, with 72% of seats. Yet Government-funded pre-election polls indicated that less than 30% of citizens intended to vote for the United Russia party.
The past two years have been marked by an unprecedented level of political repression, within and beyond Russian borders. Cumulatively, these actions have limited the choices available to Russian voters. New laws now prohibit anyone who has supported “extremist” organisations, such as Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, from running for office. Numerous opposition politicians were denied registration to stand for the Parliamentary elections. Some opposition leaders have been jailed or forced out of Russia. Several assassination attempts have been aimed at opposition leaders.
Media coverage of opposition views has been further curtailed. Prior to the elections, most human rights advocacy groups and remaining independent news media outlets were gazetted as “foreign agents” to severely restrict their ability to function or to force their closure.
Public protests have intensified in 2021. Protests have taken place in a record-breaking number of cities, attracting hundreds, sometimes thousands, of participants. The authorities have responded with violent crackdowns and persecution of political activists.
Voting in the Parliamentary elections was not conducted in accordance with international standards of a fair and transparent democratic process. Independent election monitors report thousands of cases of ballot box stuffing, falsification of the vote count protocols, and even physical abuse of independent observers at local polling places. Despite the fact that most reports were backed with photo and video evidence, they have been dismissed by the Central Electoral Committee and the police and will not be investigated.
A newly introduced electronic voting system (an alternative to the paper-based one) appears to have been used to reverse the outcome in at least 12 out of 15 races in Moscow in favour of ruling party candidates. The electronic voting system is not transparent and its security keys are controlled by the state security service (FSB), which represents a clear conflict of interest. More than 1600 members of local electoral committees have signed an open letter asking to void the electronic voting results.
The Kremlin also actively promotes Russian citizenship in the occupied regions of Ukraine (Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions) and Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia). Voting in these regions was disproportionately in favour of United Russia. This has an important implication: international recognition of the Parliamentary election results will imply recognition of these regions as parts of Russia. The UK, the US, the EU, and Turkey have already declared that they do not recognise the results of the voting in Crimea.
The new State Duma should not be legitimated by recognising the outcome of this election. It does not represent Russian citizens, according to the international standards of free and fair elections and political freedom.
We petition the Parliament of Australia to call on the Russian Federation to abide by the commitments it has adopted within the framework of the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe for the protection of human rights and democratic values, drawing particular attention to ICCPR Article 25: “Right to take part in public affairs, voting rights and access to public service” .