Following Sunday's municipal elections in the Russian Federation, the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Anders Knape, underlined the importance of democratic framework conditions in order to ensure genuinely free and fair elections, in particular with regard to the registration of independent candidates.
Speaking at the Bureau meeting of the Congress in Strasbourg, Knape recalled that civil society organisations, prior to the municipal elections, have pointed to violations at the stage of candidates’ registration. “The legal requirement for independent candidates to collect 3 percent of the voters from the according constituency is in contradiction to the Guidelines on Elections of the Venice Commission and was too high a hurdle for many independent candidates to run in the elections of 8 September. An aggravating factor were the reports we received about unproportionate measures taken by the Russian authorities against activists protesting against the exclusion of independent candidates from the elections, in particular in Moscow”, Knape stated.
The President referred in this context also to the draft Congress Report on local and regional democracy in the Russian Federation which will be debated on 30 October 2019, in the frame of the 37th Congress Session. By this report the Congress asks Russia to abolish the legal provision requiring an excessive number of signatures and recommends to guarantee equal access to voting rights to independent and opposition candidates.
In reaction to reports about shortcomings on the Election Day, the President encouraged the Russian authorities to reconsider regulations on the admission of international delegations to observe elections also at the municipal level. "International election observation at the local and regional level is a common practice in many Council of Europe countries and, as indicator of the democratic environment, an important contribution to strengthening the integrity of elections. The Congress who was not invited to observe the 8 September municipal elections stands ready to assist the Russian authorities in improving its electoral processes”, Mr Knape concluded.