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Silence in the media: “Golos” on campaign for Russian municipal elections

(September 7, 2017)


On “Single Voting Day” of 10 September 2017, elections of various levels will take place in Russia. The heads of the regions (governors) will be elected, as well as the deputies of regional legislative bodies and members of the State Duma in single-mandate constituencies, among others. On the occasion of these elections, EPDE publishes a series of reports written by its Russian member, the “Golos” Movement, analyzing in detail electoral problems, practices and challenges. Please see below the second report of this series.


Analytical report on the election campaign for Municipal Elections in Moscow on September 10, 2017

As expected, current campaigning is mostly taking place under the radar. Most of the election campaigning, as observed in the week before Election Day in the streets and surrounding areas of the city, is being conducted by independent and opposition candidates. These candidates are only occasionally represented on specially designated information stands, billboards, and message boards near residential housing. In some cases, candidates face obstacles when campaigning, but these are currently only sporadic episodes.

Notable are some individual cases of obstruction of legitimate campaign activity, sometimes with the aid of law enforcement. At the same time, the police themselves show little interest in incidents involving damage and destruction of legitimate campaign materials.

Administrative candidates rarely resort to visual outdoor campaigning and prefer to use “administrative mobilization technologies” in their campaign activities. The entire administrative machine, consisting of prefectures of administrative districts, municipal district administrations, and budget organizations, works in their favor.

It is clear that city authorities do not care about turnout in the municipal elections. Moreover, they intend to conduct the so-called “drying” (i.e. reduction) of the general turnout and mobilize the “administratively dependent” electorate. To this end, campaign meetings take place in educational institutions and other budget organizations using the advantages of official positions, thereby violating the requirements and restrictions laid out in the electoral legislation.

At the same time, the very topic of the elections is treated with silence in the media, and the election commissions that organize municipal elections are not overly zealous in informing voters about the election date. In district newspapers, there are extensive reports and information about the administrative activities of administrative candidates and current deputies of municipal assemblies. Meanwhile, in most areas the print versions of regional newspapers are no longer in circulation: they are distributed solely on the Internet.

All scandals and resonant events occurring during the elections are quickly hushed up, once again suggesting that the goal of the authorities is to have a quiet and unremarkable campaign.

During the campaign, instances have occurred in which technology was used to produce indirect campaign effects. These include the “interception” of brands and slogans of public campaigns, and the manipulation of photographs (images) of candidates on information posters. Both technologies, in our opinion, were used to erode “protest votes” and reduce the electoral advantages of recognizable civil activists who are running as independent and opposition candidates.

See the full report here.


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