Excerpts from transcript of meeting with representatives of Russian election commissions
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, friends, good afternoon.
I am delighted to welcome the members of the Central Election Commission and the heads of regional election commissions. Once again, I would like to extend my warmest greetings to each of you and to all your colleagues in the regions on the 30th anniversary of the election system in our country, Russia.
I would like to emphasise at the outset that election commissions are undoubtedly the most important of state institutions, because the authorities in our country are elected by citizens in direct elections, and in a highly competitive environment. Therefore, the smooth organising of elections, as well as open, honest and legislatively approved elections are essential, even critical, for maintaining domestic political stability, for the legitimacy of the elected authorities and for people's confidence in the results.
Election commissions clearly play the key role in these processes. At every level, each commission acts independently, relying on the law, on its members’ competence, functions and internal regulation. Decisions are made collectively, as election commissions include representatives of various political forces and social groups.
Suffice it to say that there are 900,000 voting members in the commissions at all levels – you know, even I was surprised to see this figure when I looked at the documents just now. In addition, there are thousands of observers from candidates, parties and public organisations involved in the process.
I would also like to especially emphasise that the use of video monitoring in the voting process is an effective form of civil and public control. Nowhere in the world is it used as widely as in Russia; we have CCTV cameras installed at the vast majority of polling stations.
Colleagues, I understand that your work is very complex. Of course, you are independent in your work, but this greatly increases your responsibility to all participants in the election process and, of course, to society, to the state, to our people. Your work requires deep knowledge, clarity, organisation, lack of bias, and, to a large extent, the ability to be delicate with people, to be attentive to their requests and claims. I can imagine how much nerve this requires.
Elections, both federal and regional, are always a difficult and tense period. I would like to thank each of you for your endurance and for your good, excellent performance. I hope that you will continue to be committed to upholding Russians' electoral rights, including through raising awareness in society among different social groups, so that people realise how powerful their input can be and how important their civic duty is.
As for the state’s actions, we will continue doing everything necessary to prevent illegal intervention in the electoral process. Attempts at external and internal interference and pressure on the election process will be suppressed.
I would like to note another important circumstance: over 30 years, a sound legislative and regulatory framework has been formed in the field of elections, but our election system continues to improve, and maximum information transparency is increasingly becoming a distinguishing feature.
There are now more than 20 electronic services on the portals of government services and the Central Election Commission. They provide a qualitatively new level of accessibility and transparency in the election procedures and are no longer seen as an innovation, but as the common election standards of Russia.
These services are used by voters, candidates, parties, observers, media, and of course, the election commissions. The online voting system is being implemented: it has already been tested in 30 regions. [Chair of the Central Election Commission] Ms Pamfilova has proven to me the advantages of this system in the past, and it turns out she was right.
The use of modern standards by the election commissions has helped us to substantially increase public trust in the elections and the election system. All the social polls have reported this. Based on the results of the single voting day in 2020, 60 percent of respondents in VTsIOM polls said they trusted the election results, and in September 2022, 69 percent of respondents said the elections held in their regions were, on the whole, honest and without serious violations.
Of course, it is a fairly democratic assessment, but we must not rest on this. We must certainly continue working to improve the election system. In particular, we must work more actively to create a digital platform, which will replace the current Vybory state automated system soon.
In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about the selfless and smooth work of the election commissions in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and in the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions during the elections held this year. They were based on Russian legislation for the first time and were held under extremely complicated conditions.
Russia’s Central Election Commission and the regional election commissions provided all-round assistance to these commissions, helping them create the necessary infrastructure for the elections. I will not enumerate all the tasks, but there were many of them, including equipment, training and integration into the Russian election system, and last but not least, ensuring the safety of the commissions’ personnel. It is notable that everyone who was involved in these matters solved all the tasks properly. Special thanks go to Ms Pamfilova, who did everything in her power to see that our election system dealt with all the challenges confidently.
Taking part in our meeting are members of the election commissions who acted courageously to fulfil their duties. Colleagues, you will be awarded state decorations today.
At the same time, I am aware that all those who worked on the election commissions in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and in the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions had a difficult time. I would like to thank you personally and on behalf of the country for your courage and your loyalty to Russia. (Applause.)
Secretary of precinct election commission No. 252 in Donetsk Tatyana Moskovchuk: Mr President,
To begin with, I would like to thank you on behalf of Donetsk residents, of all residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic for making Russia our home at last. Of course, I would also like to thank you for the high award, for the appreciation of my contribution to organising and developing our region’s electoral system.
You know, during the election campaign, the members of the election commission risked their lives and received threats from neo-Nazis, but not a single one of them refused to work. We proudly opened the polling stations to the sounds of the Russian anthem, realising the importance of these elections. These were our first elections as a part of Russia, and we could not allow anyone to ruin them.
I would like to say a few words about our unique voters. Despite everything, they went to the polling stations as if they had a holiday. They wanted to take part in this historical event because they understood that these elections established legislative power in the republic. They welcomed us with a smile in their homes, and whole families went to the polling stations.
This is probably why we had one of the best results in the country.
Vladimir Putin: My colleague talked about the voters.
Do you know what I would like to say at the end of this solemn ceremony? After all, we are working for these people together – you and I, the government and local officials. This is the purpose of our work and our lives.
We were just told that people came to vote as if for a holiday. But this holiday was still kind of unusual. When I looked at what was happening – I admit I said this already, but it is all right to say it again – I was certainly surprised at what was taking place. People formed a line to vote but then the shelling began. They left, and some went down into the basements. Once the shelling was over, they came out. They again formed the same lines and voted. This is surprising and these people are surprising. They have strong souls and hearts, strong characters. They largely showed to many of us an example of how to live and work and the strength everyone should have to achieve the results we need. And we have always achieved and will achieve these results in the future, in part, owing to your work. Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: I cannot deny myself the pleasure of commenting on these statements by my colleagues.
As for the observers, they are doing a very important job in this work. This is extremely important. Legitimacy is the main result of any election in Russia because it is the foundation of political stability. This is the main and the first point.
Now the second point. Of course, it is necessary to work with all observers – from both the ruling and opposition parties, because, as I just said, the legitimacy of the elections must be absolutely obvious.
There are many different people there with various temperaments and ambitions – this is all understandable. Violations can occur as well. Life is complicated and diverse, and anything can happen.
Of course, there are also people that, as they say in our country, there is no way to beat it into their thick heads because they have other goals and receive money elsewhere. Their goal is not to identify a mistake to enhance this legitimacy but, on the contrary, to destroy it in order to work off the money they receive – this is small money, but they still need to give something for the payment, as it turns out.
However, this does not mean that it is unnecessary to work with everyone. It is necessary to work with everyone. This is clear.
Now a few words about the equipment and our work with people. A colleague spoke from Rostov-on-Don. He mentioned two things that I took note of – a kind attitude towards people and our efforts to introduce modern equipment. This is right, and we will continue doing this. I spoke about this in my opening remarks. We will also use artificial intelligence, but so far no artificial intelligence can replace kindness towards people.
Thank you very much for your work. We will work with you again. In any case, you will certainly work on this again because it would be difficult to replace this kind, professional attitude with technology.
Thank you very much.