President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Ms Pamfilova.
Chairperson of the Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Pamfilova, usually we had one-on-one meetings following election campaigns. The circumstances are a little different now, but not talking with you at this time would not be the right thing to do. It is not only that you personally did a lot to organise the proper work of the central and local polling stations, so that the nationwide vote on the constitutional amendments could effectively take place on July 1, but also a huge army of the election commission members worked alongside you at the Central Election Commission and locally.
This year, the situation was special and, of course, I followed closely how the work was organised. The organisation was up-to-date, at a high level and of very high quality. The people were able to openly express their position on the constitutional amendments, and everything was organised in a highly democratic manner and, as far as I understand, with very few violations. In any case, the observers and the media are saying so. It was important to arrange work with the media and observers accordingly. It was a challenging task, indeed. Despite the fact that precautions to ensure security, social distancing and so on were taken as needed, election commissions’ members worked in close contact with the people and in this sense one may say they put their health at risk.
However, the outcome of the work – I am not talking about political results, but purely technical and epidemiological, if I may use this term in this case – shows that everything went perfectly from the point of view of safety. Thankfully, there have been no manifestations related to the epidemic among the members of the election commissions, and specialists and doctors say there has been no increase in the coronavirus caseload since July 1, but on the contrary, the decrease continues.
Therefore, I want to thank you, Ms Pamfilova, and all your colleagues that you represent across the country. I want to express my gratitude, thank you myself and, of course, on behalf of the people who participated in the vote, because you and your colleagues have done a lot to effectively ensure their safety.
With regard to ensuring democratic procedures, everything was done at the highest level, too, and I want to thank you for this, as well. Thank you very much.
Central Election Commission Chairperson Ella Pamfilova: Mr President, thank you very much for your continued support. If I may, I would like to say a few words about our opinion. The voting was held in conditions of highest possible sanitary and epidemiological safety for the people. Everybody helped us, and all possible measures have been taken, including the provision of personal protection items for the voters. Everything has been done so that people could cast their ballots without any risk to their health.
Moreover, voting was available to everyone. In other words, people could choose the method that suited them most, including the time, the place and the form of voting. It was an unprecedented experience.
In general, I would like to say that the voting itself was absolutely free, open and transparent. It can be said that this nationwide vote became the quintessence of direct democracy. I insist that this is so, and let anyone attempt to question this. We created conditions for the people to directly express their will regarding the fundamental law of Russia. Why do I insist that it was the quintessence of direct democracy? Because our election commissions constituted a representative cross-section of society. Nearly 900,000 people were working on the commissions at different levels. They represented over 40 political parties and a huge number of public movements.
In other words, those who were responsible for organising the vote themselves constituted a wide cross-section of society. Moreover, 526,000 observers worked all those seven days monitoring all forms of voting. We had observers from 18 political parties and 1,600 public movements and NGOs, who are a cross-section of society as well. This is why I say that it was the quintessence of direct democracy, when the people were able to express their will without any intermediaries. I believe that only very strange people could protest against this method of voting.
The vote was unprecedented in its openness and transparency with 11,000 journalists representing 2,500 different media outlets, including leading international publications. Let me give you an example. I am not sure if there are countries out there where they could operate so freely. They could go anywhere and engage in observations at a polling station of their choice and cover the developments.
Take Reuters, for instance. They observed the procedure at a station in Moscow Region for seven straight days. Our journalists who work abroad, and Reuters itself, can only dream about this. In the UK, for instance, media presence at polling stations is illegal. In the United States, in order to get a permit, you need to apply directly to the commission, which almost always says no. With us, it was free and open, and we were not hiding anything.
What else made it unprecedented in its openness and transparency? Video surveillance was set up in 81 regions. Not a single country practices similarly wide video surveillance as we do in this country. Anyone can see the turnout and voting results online. I am not sure if any complaints can be made here. As a result, we have an unprecedentedly low number of violations, 33 in all. We identified and prevented them in good time.
We received over 600,000 calls to our hotline and information centres. Mostly, the callers wanted to know what types of voting were available, with remote electronic voting available in two regions. We picked 120 pre-voting complaints, which we thought constituted possible violations, and sent them to governors and law enforcement bodies.
This outcome, Mr President, makes us proud. I am grateful to my colleagues for this unprecedented effort. The campaign was quite challenging. Thank you for your evaluation of our work. I think we coped with the task.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Pamfilova, now it is time to get ready for September, the September nationwide elections.
Ella Pamfilova: Our preparations are in full swing.
We have very many, almost 8,700 various campaigns at different levels. The elections will take place in 83 regions. All the necessary measures have already been taken.
Mr President, after the nationwide vote, sociological services conducted polls. The respondents told them they quite liked the procedures we offered them. We are now thinking of what to do next. Although everything has become much better, the epidemiological situation varies in different regions. Of course, seven days is not realistic, but it is possible to consider holding the elections over two or three days rather than one in order to ensure safety. We will discuss what other measures may be taken to ensure complete safety in the current situation and give people additional opportunities to vote. As for other issues, we are working on them.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Pamfilova, do you need any help, any support in your preparations for the September election campaigns?
Ella Pamfilova: For the time being, we are all right on our own. We have very good relations with the Government, and all agencies, including Rospotrebnadzor. As a last resort, if we need anything, I will call you since I have a direct line with you.
Vladimir Putin: All right, Ms Pamfilova. We will stay in touch. I would like to thank you and all your colleagues very much once again for organising the nationwide vote on July 1 of this year.
Thank you very much.
Ella Pamfilova: Thank you.