The Fair Elections Coordination Center's (FECC) main conclusion drawn from observations of the 1999 State Duma elections is that what will be important in the upcoming presidential elections is not just who is elected, but how they are elected.
Democracy is the power of procedure the procedure for coordinating the interests of the majority and the minority, the government and its opposition, the state and society. And even if there are forces in Russia who want to organize a one-candidate presidential election, the procedure by which this election takes place must not be violated.
But judging by the results of the FECC's investigations, it is precisely this procedure that is being violated in Russian election campaigns. The primary consequence is to form a widespread vision of Russian elected authority as illegitimate.
The Fair Elections Coordination Center considers this a very dangerous trend. It could lead to social schizophrenia and ideas of using violence against state institutions, against the parliament, for example. It could also lead to the development of legal nihilism, disrespect for the laws passed by the parliament and decrees issued by the executive branch.
This is partly due to imperfect electoral laws. The law concerning election of State Duma deputies does not correspond with many other federal laws. In particular, the FECC has noted contradictions with the law on the press, the law on criminal investigations, the law on advertising and the law on public service.
A lot of what is permitted under these various federal laws is forbidden by electoral law and vice-versa. As a result, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has fallen victim to legislative idiocy, authorizing a fascist party's activities, splitting Vladimir Zhirinovsky's LDPR party into two parties and getting caught up in an endless polemic with the Press Ministry. The CEC is in a feverish state, as no normally functioning state institution can meet all the conditions set by the ill-thought-out electoral law.
The main feature of the '99 campaign was the triumph of so-called "black PR." Over the course of the campaign, the FECC has put together a large collection of examples of dirty methods. These include ORT TV current affairs host Sergei Dorenko's notoriously absurd accusations against Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov. But also among them are leaflets with imaginary details of K. Solovyev's (a candidate from Moscow's Tushinsky district) drug mafia contacts and a leaflet entitled "we won't let Zadornov be arrested," supposedly in support of another Moscow candidate Mikhail Zadornov.
Administrative pressure on voters was widely used during the 1999 campaign, especially in the military. Military personnel were recommended to vote for the pro-Kremlin Unity party (Yedinstvo). This is in clear violation of the electoral law. The FECC also considers Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's call to vote for Unity as a violation of the electoral law.
The FECC thinks that the majority of voters noted that every means the state had available, right up to military operations in Chechnya, was used to publicize and promote Unity. There is no calling such an election campaign "clean."
It's no coincidence that the FECC Website, which organized a public vote on the subject, called Unity's campaign the dirtiest. Close behind was the OVR (Fatherland-All Russia) bloc. Thus, the dirtiest parties were those identifying themselves as "parties of power," whether Kremlin or Moscow oriented.
The regions where the most violations were seen were Moscow, Irkutsk Oblast, Tver Oblast, Orlov Oblast and the Komi republic.
A vast number of violations concerned campaigning outside the dates fixed by the law. Often members of the electoral committees, state and local authority officials, representatives of charities and religious groups were involved in campaigning. Much campaign material incited racial, national, religious and social hatred.
In the case of the illegally formed Taymyr autonomous district's electoral committee, the committee was composed of election candidates themselves an unprecedented violation of the electoral law and worthy of the Guinness Book of Records.
It's clear today that while it's still not too late, civil society must mobilize all available resources to overcome the problem of perceived illegitimacy of the authorities, urgently change the electoral law and strengthen the only democratic instrument we have to combat electoral fraud qualified observers.