Russian Supreme Court scraps liberal party request to cancel election results

Voting at the elections to the Russian State Duma of the 7th convocation at polling station. © Tabyldy Kadyrbekov
Russia’s Supreme Court has rejected a bid by the opposition Yabloko party to cancel the results of September’s State Duma elections. The court said that the violations the party was pointing to were minor and did not affect the results of the vote.

Yabloko, one of Russia’s oldest liberal parties, had filed a lawsuit with the court to recognize as invalid the State Duma elections that took place in mid-September, calling for the results to be declared null and void.

It alleged that the polls could not be considered free and democratic because candidates’ access to the media and other means of promotion was not equal, and because of violations registered during the actual voting.

In particular, Yabloko accused Russia’s Central Elections Commission of failing to demonstrate an adequate response to fake newspaper reports, with defamation and other damaging lies allegedly distributed by the party’s political opponents. It also claimed that the authorities across the country had unlawfully obstructed Yabloko’s own campaign and recalled cases of alleged ballot-box stuffing that were circulated on the internet after the polls.

On November 24, the Supreme Court announced that it had completed the investigation into Yabloko’s claims and decided that though some of the violations outlined had taken place, they were minor and could neither affect citizens’ freedom to vote nor the results of the elections.

Representatives of the Central Elections Commissions told the court that of the 26 alleged violations mentioned by Yabloko in its lawsuit, 19 were recognized as not contradicting the law, four more were recognized as violations, but the results of the elections were corrected with this fact in mind, and the other three were being investigated by law enforcement agencies.

The defendants also stated that the accusations of numerous violations mentioned in the lawsuit were not backed up by any official decisions by magistrates or regional elections commissions, and therefore had no legal force.

After a six-hour hearing on Tuesday, the judge announced that the Supreme Court agreed with the defendants’ arguments and ruled that Yabloko’s lawsuit should not be fulfilled. Yabloko lawyers have told reporters that they attended to appeal the decision.

The final results of the 2016 parliamentary elections were released on September 23, 10 days after the polls. Centrist conservatives United Russia received 343 seats in the 450-seat lower house, the Communist Party won 42, the Liberal-Democratic Party claimed 39, while center-left party Fair Russia won 23 and the Motherland and Civil Platform parties received one seat each. In addition, one MP without party affiliation was elected to the State Duma from an independent constituency.

Yabloko failed to pass both the 5-percent threshold required for getting parliamentary representation and the 3-percent threshold needed for receiving state sponsorship and easier access to the next elections.

It is notable that Yabloko has filed lawsuits seeking to cancel the poll results after every federal election since 2003 – sometimes together with other opposition parties – but has never succeeded.