How the mechanism works by which the power structures in Russia can exclude any unwanted candidate from the presidential race – the case of Boris Nadezhdin

​Stanislav Andreychuk, co-president of the movement for the defense of voters’ rights in Russia, “Golos”, explained in an interview to the details of the exclusion from the Russian presidential elections of the anti-war candidate Boris Nadejdin. The electoral commission in Moscow invalidated his more than 9,000 signatures based on the expertise of so-called “writing experts”.

Boris NadezhdinPhoto: Kirill Zykov / Sputnik / Profimedia

Empty” is declared a “foreign agent” in Russia, and one of its co-presidents was arrested in a criminal case in which the organization was classified as “undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation”.

Stanislav Andreychuk he is also co-chairman of “Golos” and gave us an interview, remotely, without telling us whether he is in Russia or not.

We asked the voter rights and election law expert to unravel the mechanism behind the exclusion of the anti-war candidate from Russia’s March 15-17 presidential election. It is about Boris Nadejdin, in whose case the Central Electoral Commission invalidated over 9,000 signatures, based on an analysis made by “writing experts”.

We would like to better understand the reasons why Boris Nadezhdin was not registered in the election race and what, in fact, is this analysis of “experts in writing”?

Stanislav Andreychuk: It is a traditional method that has been used for 15-20 years. How does it actually happen? The signatures (collected for submitting a presidential candidacy) can be considered either “invalid”or “untrue”.

“Invalid” signatures are considered if a person does not have the right to vote or the signatures were not collected properly, i.e. there are some formal mistakes.

“False” signatures are those that would not have been made by the person whose name appears on the document (in support of the candidate – no).

In the case of Nedejdin, a little over 9,000 signatures were canceled (out of a total of 105,000 – no). Half of these were declared “untrue” after analyzing the writing.

The problem with writing expert conclusions is that, first of all, no one understands and knows the methodology of this expertise and whether it really exists.

This expertise is not published, so it cannot be challenged or an alternative expertise can be made.

It also doesn’t help if the people to whom those signatures belong are brought into the courtroom. Judges will “take a critical stance”, disregard what these people say and give credence to “experts in writing”.

Thus, it will not be possible for the 4000 signatures to be validated by appeal in court. More precisely, it is a mechanism that allows the electoral structures and those of the force, because the expertise is carried out within the Ministry of Internal Affairs or FSB (Federal Security Service – no), to exclude absolutely randomly any candidate from the race.

The other signatures (not submitted by Boris Nadejdin) were declared invalid due to certain mistakes. Some of these mistakes are related to the fact that the information in the identity document of the person who signed does not correspond to that in the databases, for example the residence visa.

Another reason that was cited concerned the data of the people who collected these signatures or the list with their data somehow disappeared.

Stanislav Andreychuk, screenshot via Zoom, from the conversation with the correspondent

However, how is it established that the signature was not specifically put by the person who came forward to sign, especially since these people are not even called by experts or in the courtroom, to compare the writing, for example?

Formally, this is done in the following way: they say that the signatures, for example, no. 5, no. 15 and no. 30 were made by a single person, or the name, surname and patronymic are written with one hand, and the date – with another hand. Although it is not clear how they compare letters to numbers.

But the argumentation in these cases simply does not exist. Moreover, we communicated with the representatives of Boris Nadejdin’s staff and they told us that they were not sent the actual expertise, but only an extract with conclusions and that’s it, without explaining why the expert considered that these signatures were put by other people.

Were there other candidates who were rejected for the same reason?

Of the 11 people who passed the candidacy presentation stage, three did not need to collect signatures, because they represent parliamentary political parties.

In the case of Vladimir Putin, he had less than 100 signatures deemed invalid out of 300 thousand collected.

Two candidates, Boris Nadejdin and Serghei Malincovici, collected the signatures. Other candidates withdrew their candidacies: they came to the Central Electoral Commission, brought some boxes and at the same moment said they were withdrawing.

Two candidates came with less than 500 signatures, instead of the 100 thousand that were needed. Thus, only Vladimir Putin, Sergey Malincovich and Boris Nadezhdin were verified. The last two did not pass the registration stage, for almost identical reasons.

We saw that in the case of Boris Nadejdin, his electoral account was immediately blocked. Is it a practice laid down in legislation or a decision specific to this case?

It is not quite clear, first of all, what kind of procedure was applied: the account was blocked or suspended. That’s because we don’t see any official document with the reasoning behind this decision, it was just a verbal decision at the CEC meeting.

What is said at these meetings, however, does not always correspond to the information that later appears in official documents. However, we must understand that if the candidate has filed an appeal in court regarding the refusal of his registration, he continues to remain a candidate.

Thus, he has the right to continue the electoral campaign and, respectively, to spend money from this account. Moreover, he must pay the remaining money to those who worked in his electoral staff until now.

And third, he must return the unspent money to campaign donors. The candidate’s account must be closed after the submission of the final financial report, which occurs after the end of the election campaign.

Now it is not clear what is happening with Boris Nadejdin’s account. If he will not be able to return the money to the citizens who donated to the campaign, these resources will go to the budget of the Russian Federation.

I understand that the presidential election will last for three days. Can you explain why?

Three voting days were introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision was theoretically explained by the need for people not to gather in very large numbers.

In reality, the problem is that it is very difficult to control such a voting process. This is not simple, but under these conditions the problem becomes even bigger: more observers are needed, the way the ballots are kept at night between these voting days, etc. must be monitored.

Moreover, this also creates even more pressure on the people who are pushed by the bosses to vote: they go to the polls on Friday morning, right during working hours.

Thus, Friday is very busy, on Sunday morning people come who want to vote on their own initiative, but on Saturday practically no one comes to vote.

And this even if the pandemic is over.

Know that the pandemic is not officially over with us, because rallies are officially prohibited, precisely because of the pandemic restrictions. That is, football matches and various concerts are not prohibited, but rallies are prohibited, due to the pandemic restrictions in force.

“The people in power (no – in Russia) do not trust the people who go to the polls”

The ballot published by the Russian press. Nadejdin’s name no longer exists, although the candidate contested the CEC’s decision

I saw the ballot published in the Russian press. There are four candidates there. Does this mean that only these people remain? Because most likely, Nadejdin, who challenged the decision of the CEC, will not win the case.

Yes, there are only four. Only if Nadejdin wins in the Supreme Court. I, instead of the CEC, would at least proceed formally and wait for the court’s decision and only then submit the ballot.

I think they already know something and that’s why they made such a decision. But yes, there will be four candidates.

It is the lowest number of candidates since 2008, i.e. repeating the anti-record of 2008, when Dmitri Medvedev ran.

How will it be possible to monitor these elections: will people be pressured to vote or will the voting results be falsified?

One does not exclude the other. And pressure, and falsification – these things complement each other “successfully”.

Russia is a big country: somewhere there are total falsifications, somewhere they are practically not, but people are pressured to vote. But yes, this year election monitoring will be more complicated than ever.

About your organization – how will you manage the monitoring and if this does not pose a danger to its activists?

“Golos” is in Russia, a good part of regional representatives and activists are in Russia. Some of the people still left. The co-chairman of the organization, my colleague, Grigori Melkoniaț, is locked up in solitary confinement (in the file where “Golos” is considered the unwanted organization on the territory of the Russian Federation – no).

The organization has been declared a “foreign agent” for the tenth time, the first time being in 2013.

Officially, election monitoring is legal. There are other monitoring organizations at regional, local level, we all collaborate actively. Simply put, “Golos” is the most powerful and well-known organization at the federal level, with almost 24 years of activity.

Understand, it is not possible to forbid people to fight for their rights. Even if something happens to “Golos”, they declare us “extremists” and close us down, that large number of civic activists from all over the country will not disappear.

We calculated that in 2021, during the State Duma elections, 15-20 thousand people from the whole country collaborated with us. Where will all these people go? They will continue to operate under a different name.

It is hard to imagine that at the international level Russia can be influenced in this sense: it is too big and can afford not to listen to anyone.

Why is it being so harsh this time in these elections – because the reality does not quite correspond to the image that is being tried to be presented at the official level, such as “everyone supports the policies of the authorities, everyone agrees with everything and everything is good and stable”. It’s not like that at all.

In recent years, we increasingly notice that power is doing everything to remove people from decision-making at the state level. The people in power don’t trust the people who go to the polls.

Everything is simple and this conflict is growing.

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