Central Elections Commission rejects idea of compulsory voting

Central Elections Commission rejects idea of compulsory voting
Russia’s top elections body has scrapped suggestions to introduce fines for those who choose not to vote in political polls, saying that such a move could contradict the Constitution.

Maya Grishina who is in charge of legal issues in the Central Elections Commission told the Interfax news agency on Thursday that the initiative could only be a “conversational topic” as it had no legislative perspectives whatsoever.

The comments came after the influential business daily, Kommersant, published an interview with the head of the Moscow Region elections commission, Irek Vildanov, who said that introducing fines between 5,000 and 10,000 rubles ($111 - $222) for citizens who choose not to vote could help the authorities tackle the problem of low turnout at the polls. The official suggested using the money received from fines for financing election procedures and also noted that certain groups of citizens could be made exempt from the obligatory voting – such as pensioners, people on an official sick leave, etc.

I think that Mr Vildanov put this forward as an idea for discussion, not as a real option that could be introduced as a legislative norm,” Grishina said. She added that the Russian constitution guaranteed the freedom of elections and many lawyers, including herself, interpret this formula as the freedom to appear or not appear at polls.

During the latest all-Russian day of elections – September 14 – voter turnout was between 25 and 30 percent, with the exception of remote and scarcely populated regions, where pollsters usually pay personal visits to voters.

Researchers, such as the head of the VTSIOM Public Opinion Center, Valery Fyodorov, said this phenomenon could be connected with citizens’ decreasing interest in internal politics against the background of numerous crises in the international arena.