President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ms Pamfilova, I know that you have worked hard, analysing all events during the State Duma elections, how everything was organised, working with complaints and claims from participants in the process. Let’s start with this, shall we?
Chairperson of the Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova: Yes, Mr President. Exactly three months have passed since then and we have been very busy over this time. We made a thorough analysis of the mistakes, concentrating not on what went well, but on where there are still problems, working with a view to the next big election cycle, including the presidential election in March 2018.
Next year will also see a big election campaign period involving perhaps 40 million voters, as 15 regions will elect their regional heads and six regions will hold legislative elections. In total, big election campaigns will take place in some 30 regions. In this respect, it is very important to not just maintain, but also develop and consolidate the very clear policy you have set of holding transparent, open, competitive and free elections.
In this respect, there are three points I want to make.
Regarding the State Duma election campaign, what is very important here is that no violator should escape punishment, in order to clear the road for the next election.
We tried to identify practically every violation that took place, and most important, ensure that punishment would inevitably follow. We really did a very thorough job in our analysis. Of the 85 regions, there were practically no violations in 62 regions. In these regions, the campaigns were conducted in proper fashion, there were no complaints, and neither the observers nor the experts found any problems.
Violations of one kind or another took place in the remaining 23 regions, and in some regions, they were very serious indeed. I would lay the blame here above all with the regional authorities, who, regrettably, abused the administrative resources at their disposal. I have prepared reports and will give them to you later. It is up to you to decide.
As for what lies within our powers, we have done all we could in the regions where violations occurred and handed out penalties to our colleagues. In some cases, we expressed our lack of confidence and proposed that they resign.
Thirty-two heads of territorial electoral commissions have been dismissed from their posts for violations, and a further 4,398 people – heads of local commissions and commission members – have also been dismissed. Some commissions were dismissed entirely. I said to them, “You can get whoever you like calling you, but you will have to answer.” Well, they have answered in full measure with the rules, and I think we will continue this line.
We have set a course of renewal and carried out a rotation of personnel, so that now, new people account for at least 30 percent of commission heads and more than half of their deputies. Furthermore, the average age of commission members has come down by 6–9 years. People from the administration now make up a smaller contingent, down by 8.5 percent. In other words, we have fewer representatives from official quarters and more representatives from the political parties.
Party representation has increased greatly since 2011. The representatives of 28 different parties now take part in the commissions at all levels. This is unprecedented. That is my first point.
The second very important point I wanted to bring to your attention is technical re-equipment. I want to thank you for your support here, because only thanks to you, the Government and the Prime Minister were we able to organise video monitoring at nearly a third of polling stations in such a short time, and this played a big part in guaranteeing open and free elections.
I drafted a proposal and I hope that you will support continued efforts to develop the video monitoring system for the upcoming presidential election.
As far as the technical re-equipment goes, I wanted to show you what we have planned. (Viewing of presentation). We have 52 regions that now operate on digital channels. We have done this using our own resources. We do not need anything here and plan to have all regions go digital this year. This will make it possible to speed up our work, which will improve the entire electoral system’s performance.
The second important issue on which we will need your help concerns the vote processing systems. They have proven their worth and the regions are asking for them, especially the regions that want to ensure honest elections. But we have few of these apparatuses to cover the entire country’s needs. The Central Election Commission, which saved around 500 million roubles during the last campaign by optimising internal resources, therefore asks that the Finance Ministry not simply takes this money back from us, but lets us use it instead to buy vote processing systems. Our policy is to have every polling station using modern vote counting systems. But we will need your help here. You know this yourself.
Next, using our own resources, we will introduce a QR code for instant reading of the protocols. This will enable us to eliminate the biggest complaints and minimise falsification attempts during the process of drawing up the protocol. We will sort this all out ourselves, but I simply wanted to brief you on our plans.
Another very important aspect is that we have analysed all of the electoral legislation, organised a scientific-practical conference, collected all proposals from the independent expert community, observers, parties, the Presidential Human Rights Council, and the human rights commissioners. We worked together with everyone concerned and summarised the material that I will present to you. I ask you to issue the directive to establish a working group under the Presidential Executive Office’s aegis, with representatives from the Federal Assembly, the Government and the Central Election Commission taking part, so as to transform all of this into concrete amendments and get this important work moving.
Finally, an issue that would seem to be of a more particular nature but is actually very important is that of voting possibilities for people with disabilities and people with limited mobility.
We have a good programme – Road to the Polling Station – which fits in with the objectives of the Accessible Environment federal programme. Implementing this programme in full would make it possible to increase dramatically the voting activeness of people with disabilities, and this is an important part of integration into society in general.
In principle, we have already made plans and accomplished what we can using the real possibilities at our disposal. But there is one problem. Unfortunately, we do not have a unified base with all the needed information on these people (who want to vote too) depending on their type of disability: blind, visually impaired, deaf, hearing impaired, or with skeletal and muscle problems. We only get statistics from the Pension Fund, giving the numbers of people with different types of disability, but this does not help us to properly organise the polling stations.
Starting on January 1, the Government is opening access to the information system Federal Register of People with Disabilities. I ask for your support to have us included in this programme too. This will help us to organise a better quality of work in more targeted fashion. After all, no matter how you look at it, this group accounts for around 12 million voters. In this respect, I would be very grateful if the Presidential Commission for the Rights of People with Disabilities, together with the Central Election Commission, the Justice Ministry, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, could examine measures to ensure disabled people’s electoral rights. If you have no objections, we will work on this issue over the next year, with your help.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
You know my position. The cleaner and more transparent are elections, the greater the legitimacy of the state bodies elected with their help. We will thus continue working. Of course, you will need to calculate the needed financing and approve it with the Government and the Finance Ministry. But we will certainly work on carrying out your proposals.
Ella Pamfilova: Thank you very much.