Golos Equates Mayoral and Presidential Elections

July 17, 2013
Sergei Sobyanin/Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images

The Golos movement has proposed to acting Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin that video surveillance be provided for the mayoral elections on 8 September. Kommersant learned at the Moscow City Electoral Commission that the Moscow mayor’s office will have to allocate funds. Sobyanin’s campaign headquarters called Golos’ idea “not bad.” – Ed.

Golos, the movement in defense of the rights of voters, has appealed to Sergei Sobyanin with a call to place video surveillance at voting locations. Such a practice would enable “citizens and observers to confirm the honesty of the procedures,” the group said in a letter. Video surveillance was already used in the presidential elections on 4 March 2012.

On 15 December 2011, Presidential candidate Vladimir Putin asked the Central Electoral Commission to place video surveillance cameras at all voting locations in order to “knock the ground out from under the feet of those who would like to delegitimize authority in the Russian Federation.” A little over three months and 25 billion rubles were required to place about 90,000 web cameras (see Kommersant, 5 March 2012).

In the opinion of Golos, at that time, the measure enabled “the realization of the principle of openness and glasnost [transparency] enshrined in law in the activity of electoral commissions.” Refusing to have video surveillance, says the letter, “will not foster the strengthening of trust of the residents of Moscow in the newly-elected mayor,” even as “trust in the results of the elections in the capital have a key significance for the legitimacy of authority in the capital.”

“Installing the cameras will increase citizens’ faith in the elections,” Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of the council of the Golos movement told Kommersant.

Meanwhile, Andrei Buzin, an expert on election law recalled that “after the presidential elections a video tape bank was created (at first it belonged to Rostelekom, and then after a year, it was transferred to the Ministry of Communications—Kommersant), but it was practically impossible to obtain videotapes from it. The Ministry of Communications and the Central Electoral Commission established a regulation under which the voter could obtain no more than 30 minutes of a tape from the location indicated in his request. Buzin noted that “often the Ministry of Communications lost the requests of voters.” And the obligation of courts to accept tapes as evidence and the legal consequences for incorrect use of the cameras were never set in law.

Melkonyants hopes that Sobyanin will accept their proposal. In the event of a refusal, Golos plans to appeal to observers and journalists to take photos and videos independently. “If there are tools for capturing the elections, why not use them?” Melkonyants believes. He also noted that “this is not a question for the electoral commission; here everything depends on the executive authority.”
The Moscow City Electoral Commission confirmed that the mayor’s office must allocate funds from the Moscow budget and transfer them to the city electoral commission which will make a decision whether to implement the project [for video surveillance] itself, or use contractors. Vyacheslav Dunayev, a member of the Moscow Electoral Commission added that it is not difficult to technically execute the project – cameras have in fact remained from the presidential elections, but they just don’t have flash memory cards.

“This should have been done earlier, but now, if there’s a directive, everything will have to be done in emergency mode,” Dunayev added. He also noted that the use of fixed cameras is not the most “workable” means, since “nothing is coherent” from the videotapes received. “The most reliable method is to install outside observers, and put cameras into their hands,” Dunayev observed. “Then a better quality image is obtained in which violations are visible if they occur.”

The press office at Sergei Sobyanin’s election headquarters called the Golos movement’s idea “not bad” and said they would review it.

Golos made a similar request to the government of Moscow Region. According to Melkonyants, he was told in the government office that “we have no funds for cameras” and “Andrei Vorobyov (acting mayor of Moscow Region—Kommersant) would like observers to film the voting process on their own.”