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“Almost all our compatriots have the opportunity to vote on amendments to the Constitution” – Maria Butina
The Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation organized a meeting with international experts from 20 countries
On July 1, the main day of the nationwide vote on amendments to the Constitution, the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation hosted a meeting with international experts from Armenia, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Sweden and Venezuela.
The President of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation Lydia Mikheeva thanked all the guests for their interest in the all-Russian vote and public monitoring, highlighting the importance of their expert opinion in regard to the voting process.
“We have received many applications from foreign colleagues requesting to consider the possibility of taking part in public monitoring. Despite the fact that the law does not provide for the participation of foreign citizens in monitoring the nationwide vote, we were happy to invite you all as experts,” said Lydia Mikheeva.
Furthermore, she stressed that public oversight of elections was one of the flagship projects of the system of civic chambers, implemented since 2012.
“Today the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation and the regional civic chambers are conducting public monitoring of the nationwide vote on amendments to the Constitution. More than 526 thousand observers are present at the polling stations closely following the course of voting,” she said.
“At the moment, the Situation Center of the Civic Chamber has communicated with more than 22 thousand observers in all regions. A total of 153 reports of ‘Gold standard’ non-compliance were registered. All appeals are being carefully checked. Furthermore, the Civic Chamber is coordinating the work of observers, including those based abroad,” added Lydia Mikheeva.
In order to observe the nationwide vote on amendments to the Constitution, 77 directions were created for work at polling stations in 31 countries.
Member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation Maria Butina spoke in more detail about the voting procedure in foreign countries.
“I proceeded to this meeting directly from the territorial electoral commission where we keep the record of the number of citizens who have voted at polling stations in foreign states. Everything is going smoothly; today, almost all our compatriots have the opportunity to vote on amendments to the Constitution. We have 255 polling stations in 144 countries. I think this is a great achievement,” she was quoted as saying.
Maria Butina explained that the task of monitoring the voting process of compatriots abroad was delegated to her by the Civic Chamber: “We work together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which in turn receives materials from electoral commissions at various embassies, consulates and other foreign institutions. Russian citizens living abroad also can make appeals through the main hotline.”
According to her, they mostly enquire on how, where and when to vote. “There are many requests regarding the possibility of voting online in the future.”
Issues related to the e-voting procedure, which was launched in Russia for the first time, were of great interest to foreign experts present.
Carlos Alberto Cruz Filho, an expert from Brazil, called this “an excellent example of innovation in the field of elections.”
He was cited as saying: “Here I can observe what my colleagues are doing and gain experience that will be useful for my own country. We can see total transparency of the elections. And the main thing I would like to say is that voting is not mandatory and people could vote on any day during the week – offline or online.”
E-voting has raised questions from some foreign experts concerned about the protection of citizens’ personal data during the procedure online.
In response, Maria Butina assured that the blockchain system used for voting excluded the possibility of data leakages and met all the relevant criteria of transparency and secrecy of voting.
An expert from Afghanistan, Yasar Ahmadzai, talked about elections due to be held in Afghanistan in November, that is why it was important for him to study the experience of the Russian vote in the context of the coronavirus pandemic in order to adopt a similar strategy if the pandemic did not recede.
Jean-Claude Boucher, a European MP for France, said that this was not the first he had monitored elections in Russia. “Every time I saw that the vote was going well, and I can say the same today.”
“This time round voting was held during a seven-day period. This interesting idea allows many more people to vote. I wonder if this procedure will be applied in other voting processes across Russia,” he said.
The leader of the Latvian party “Deistviye” Ruslan Pankratov was more interested in whether information attacks and provocations were systematic.
“Will you analyze violations during the voting to find out whether they have a systematic nature, whether someone is behind them bearing responsibility for the planned attacks and falsely presenting them as the will of inadequate people? Or are these violations so varied that they cannot be combined into one single group?” he enquired.
Lydia Mikheeva stated that each observer had an extensive questionnaire with an exhaustive list of questions, and the nature of any deviation from this standard would allow for a systematic analysis of what had happened at polling stations.
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