President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. I think you will agree with me, everyone here is an adult and remembers how it was.
The Constitution was born with great pains, when our country faced the launch of aggression by forces of international terrorism, an incipient civil war in the Caucasus and a very severe internal political crisis, which led to clashes in our capital and loss of life.
However, its adoption was a turning point where Russia clearly chose to be a free, sovereign, law-based and democratic state, in which the people exercising their rights, primarily through free elections, are the sole source of power.
The first Central Election Commission was formed in the run-up to a popular vote on the draft Constitution and elections to the Federal Assembly. The history of Russia’s modern electoral system dates back to that event.
The challenges our country was dealing with determined the way it was formed and developed. However, all changes in the electoral system have always sought to reinforce the institutions of democracy and expand popular representation in our political system.
A full-fledged legislative framework was put in place over the years. It regulates the organisation and holding of elections at various levels and, most importantly, provides guarantees that the electoral rights of Russian citizens are protected.
There have been 14 elections, seven to the State Duma, and seven for the presidency of the Russian Federation; there have been over 1,000 elections to regional governments and over 100,000 municipal elections. Election commissions at all levels have accumulated vast practical experience, and, importantly, elections are now widely popular with our citizens.
They see elections as a natural and necessary form of participation in the life of our state, not just as their undisputed right, but also as a way to have real influence in shaping the development priorities of their region, city, village and our entire country.
Much credit for that goes to the Central Election Commission, which has always set high standards for election procedures. I want to thank all the CEC members who have served and all its chairs for their professionalism and responsibility.
Our electoral system is constantly being improved. This is an objective process for a multi-level, complex organism such as Russia, which must adapt to a growing political culture and the emergence of modern technologies, meet the needs and expectations of society, its level of development and the accountability its members feel for the state of affairs in their village, city, region, and in Russia in general.
Any changes in the electoral system should strengthen the principles of openness, honesty and transparency of the entire election process and its freedom from any interference, both internal and external. I should note that no one has the right to block citizens' free expression of will and distort their choice expressed at the election.
Any illegal interference with the election process, with social and political life, as well as attempts at foul play should be swiftly suppressed. The electoral system can only work if people trust it and know that their voice will be heard. We absolutely must cherish this trust, and respect and appreciate our citizens' opinions and choices.
An election is always a very tense and uneasy time, for not only candidates and political parties, but also for you, your colleagues, for election commissions, and you know this better than anyone does.
Today, our electoral system includes nearly one million election commissions of various levels. Their work is highly important for our society. To emphasise once again, the strict observance of legal procedures and the stable and democratic development of our society and the country depend on their professional and personal qualities, honesty, integrity and professionalism.
During any election, election commissions are at the focus of attention of candidates, observers, citizens, and media. They are expected to operate in a precise, coordinated, prompt and unbiased manner. I am confident that our electoral system and the people involved in it are fully capable of doing what is expected of them by society.
I congratulate you on the 25th anniversary of Russia's electoral system. I would like to wish you success and well-being.
Thank you very much.