Preparation and organisation of the State Duma election was the subject of discussion.
The President signed at the meeting an executive order setting the election date on December 4, 2011.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues.
I hope that you have made use of the summer to gather strength for the upcoming political battles soon to begin. I am going to sign today the executive order setting the date for the State Duma election.
I have regular meetings with the leaders of the parties represented in the parliament, but today representatives of all of the registered political parties are here. It is my hope of course that the State Duma to be elected will be as representative as possible reflecting our citizens’ various political preferences and all the wide diversity of their views, opinions, and interests.
I propose that we discuss today how to achieve this result, and listen to whatever concerns and proposals you may have. These are things I have already discussed at the meetings with leaders of the parliamentary parties, during the meetings we have had together and individually.
This election will be taking place under a new set of considerably revised rules. Some essential amendments have been made of late to the electoral laws, and we have continued the efforts to improve our political system. The aim of these efforts is to give our people a better quality of parliamentary representation. As you know, and as we discussed, these changes take into account your ideas and comments, and most of the draft laws were in fact the result of the discussions we had together.
The State Duma’s mandate has been extended to five years now. Parties not represented in parliament now have to collect 150,000 signatures to be able to register their lists of candidates, as opposed to 200,000 previously. Parties that win more than five percent of the vote will get seats in parliament. Liability has been raised for violations involving documents giving permission to vote outside one’s electoral district, which was something we discussed on a number of occasions, and we have brought order to the procedures for early voting and votes cast outside the polling stations. This is also the result of our work together. I hope that all of these steps will help to guarantee fair political competition. The parties currently represented in the parliament have equal access to state radio stations and television channels. Parties that did not clear the barrier for getting seats in the parliament now have the right to address the State Duma and the legislative assemblies in the regions on key national and regional development issues.
In order to exclude even the hypothetical possibility of rigging the election results, we are continuing our work to fit all of the polling stations with new technology. This programme will be completed by 2015. To be honest, we would have completed it sooner, but financial difficulties came up and we opted for what is a more balanced approach. Of course, by December 4, the election date, a large number of polling stations – around 5,000 polling stations in all the different regions – will have the new equipment.
I met a month ago with representatives of the electoral commissions. They are aware of their responsibility and of the need to guarantee security and openness at the polling stations. As President and guarantor of the Constitution, I can affirm that our country is ready to hold this election, and this is what today’s meeting is about too.
Of course, any election campaign is a battle that sees emotions run high and claims fly. This is only natural and, indeed, it is the way things should be because otherwise, it just isn’t democracy. But I do hope that everything will stay within legal limits of course, without extremes. Two things are equally unacceptable: administrative arbitrariness on the part of civil servants trying to twist the results in their own favour; and unproven charges of fraud, which we often hear from those who lost. Both of these things reflect that same legal nihilism we are trying to overcome. We are to learn to win honest victories, and to accept defeat. This is just the way life is.
There are some things that must not under any circumstances be allowed to surface in the election campaign: attempts to incite interethnic hatred – this is absolutely unacceptable; and calls to commit unlawful acts. This is not just my request to you all, but is my absolute demand. We will put a swift and decisive end to any such attempts and calls, and the people responsible for them will be punished accordingly.
We all treasure our country’s diversity. This social, cultural, and ethnic diversity is what gives us our strength. Competition and rivalry will continue therefore to be a driving force in our country’s development and that of our entire society, and will shape the development of economic relations too.
The social and political processes underway in the world today are highly complex. We discuss them at many different forums and meetings. By the way, the Global Policy Forum will be taking place in just a week-and-a-half in Yaroslavl. I take the opportunity to invite you all – the leaders of our different political parties – to take part. It is an interesting event with a wide range of people participating: people representing political forces from our own country and abroad, foreign political analysts and experts, politicians, people who support our vision of where Russia is going and how, and people who have their own particular vision of our country. This all makes for a very interesting and useful forum.
I think that over these last years, together with the parliamentary majority, and indeed with all of the parties that have taken part, we have succeeded in raising our democracy’s quality. This does not mean that we have done everything that can be done, but simply that we have made our democracy more advanced. Some would say that these are merely cosmetic and insufficient changes, and others would say we should not have made them at all. Views will always differ, but what is clear is that we must continue working towards a more modern and improved legal model of democracy, and this is the job of the state authorities and the political parties. I hope that the State Duma election will do the maximum in helping us to reach this goal.
I wish all of you success in the upcoming election campaign.
Let’s begin work. Actually, before starting our work, it would probably be useful if I first sign the executive order, so let me do that first and put you all in a good mood, otherwise you’ll say that I called you all here and then never even signed the order.
And so, the order is as follows: “The date of December 4, 2011 is hereby set for holding the election of deputies to the Russian Federation Federal Assembly State Duma. The order shall enter into force upon its official publication.”