Fair Russia wants protest vote to be returned

RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Ankov
The leaders of the Fair Russia party, Sergey Mironov and Nikolay Levichev, have submitted a bill to the lower house that would return the “against all” ballot option to Russian elections.

Mironov, the party's informal leader and former Federation Council Speaker, and Levichev, Fair Russia's chairman, believe that a number of federal laws on elections should be amended and the option of a protest vote should be returned to the people.

The idea initiated by the United Russia party to remove the “against all” option from the ballots was instituted back in 2006.

According to Fair Russia’s leaders, since the option was removed from the ballot, voter turnout has been lower than it was before, the party's press service says in a statement published on the party’s official website. To a large extent, this has happened because citizens who did not want to support any party or candidate had no vehicle through which to voice their position, and therefore no motivation for voting, believes the authors of the legislation.

That makes voting less democratic, thereby reducing the level of legitimacy of the elected bodies and candidates. In addition, the lack of a protest vote “limits to some decree citizens' electoral rights”. Fair Russia believes that the restoration of the “against all” choice would provide for higher voter turnout, and also inform the responsible attitude the authorities should take “towards a significant part of our society”.

Mironov has long been pushing for the idea. Earlier in June, he called on President Dmitry Medvedev to again give Russians the option to vote against all the candidates in elections.

“People with full citizenship want to express their point of view, and now we are depriving them of this right," he said during a meeting with the head of state, cited RIA Novosti. Mironov added that the “against all” column was a "barometer of society's well-being."

Whether the ruling party and the president support the initiative put forward by the Fair Russia is yet to be seen. However, as the country nears the State Duma elections set for December of this year, which will be followed by the presidential election in March, a number of changes in electoral law have already been introduced.

Earlier this month, Russia’s lower house approved a draft law on lowering the vote threshold by two per cent for federal parliamentary elections. This means that to get into the Duma, a party would need five per cent of the votes instead of seven. In fact, the bill merely represents a return to the norms that existed in 1993-2003. After the threshold was increased under Vladimir Putin's presidency, only four parties managed to get seats in the parliament during the 2007 elections. Even if the bill is adopted before the December vote, it would still apply only to the next series of elections which will be held in 2016.

On July 12, during a meeting with leaders from those parties represented in the lower house, Medvedev promised to further improve electoral laws and expressed hope that the December elections will be open and honest.

“In late June, I submitted a bill to the State Duma that provides for the lowering of the election threshold in the lower house to five percent. But I want to tell you that, most probably, my recommendations in this field will not be limited to this move only,” he said.