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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, this is the first time this particular group of us is meeting together. We have representatives here from election commissions at all levels, beginning with the Central Election Commission and all the way down to the precinct commissions. This is no accident.
Although it’s almost August and the vacation season is nearly upon us, you have an enormous amount of work to do in preparation for the State Duma elections. Regional and municipal elections will be held at the same time. This will be the largest-scale and most significant election campaign in recent years.
Naturally, its results will determine the distribution of political forces in our nation for the upcoming period. You and your colleagues have a special responsibility in ensuring the lawfulness and openness of the preparations for these elections, as well as their outcomes.
The upcoming campaign will be held in somewhat new conditions: in recent years, I feel we have significantly improved the electoral system. First of all, additional guarantees to ensure fair political competition have been created, and we have legally ensured more transparent execution of electoral procedures. At the same time, we have also relied on existing law enforcement practice, consulted with the Central Election Commission, and taken into account the opinions of political parties, whom I meet with regularly. Every month, they inundate me with more suggestions on improving electoral legislation.
I want to let you know that I have signed three laws. One of them governs voting outside of polling stations, regulating this procedure and thereby minimising the risks of abuse. The new law takes into account the needs of citizens who have difficulties leaving their homes, persons with disabilities, and the elderly, and also strictly specifies the number of mobile ballot boxes and limits the number of so-called reserve ballots for the election commissions’ mobile groups.
The second law gives parties the right to independently choose the candidates who will take up the seats in regional parliaments and municipal assemblies. In other words, this law strengthens the same principle that applies to State Duma deputies – the procedure for filling deputy seats – at the regional and municipal level.
Finally, the third law I signed was adopted on the initiative of all four parliamentary parties and introduces unified forms of signature lists for regional and local elections, sets forth the procedures for filling out these lists and the basis for annulling voters’ signatures. I hope that as these laws come into force, there will be fewer violations of law.
In addition to improving the legal and regulatory framework, it is imperative to continue refitting election committees with new technical equipment. We agreed to fully complete this process by 2015. The electronic counting system must ultimately make any outside interference impossible and serve as the basic guarantee of elections legitimacy.
At the State Duma elections of the sixth convocation, we plan to have modern voting facilities in all 83 federal constituent entities, at more than 5,000 polling stations – in other words, as I understand, this is on average about five per cent of the total number of voting locations – as well as at polling places abroad. Today, I would like to hear about what has already been done in this regard, and whether there are any new ideas.
Another important issue is the formation of election commissions at all levels. Three months ago, the Central Election Commission’s new composition was approved. I know that the composition of 50 regional commissions has changed since the beginning of the year. Nineteen of those commissions had a change in leadership. There has also been a rotation of 2,500 territorial election commissions. Now, we will need to form precinct election commissions. I would also like to hear about how preparations in this regard are progressing.
Parliamentary elections – elections to any parliament, including in our nation – is a serious and often very tough political battle. And here, we all need a strong civic attitude, and sometimes, personal courage. Your professionalism and honesty directly influence people’s trust toward our election system, and subsequently, the election results. Ultimately, this determines the trust people feel toward the authorities in general – especially with presidential elections coming up next March.
I am ready to hear your opinions on these issues and other matters that you feel are relevant.