How Many Rubles Is a Vote Worth?

Vremya Novostei reported on October 16th that the Central Electoral Commission has practically given permission for political parties to buy votes, as long as the sum doesn’t exceed 400 rubles.

Part two, chapter 62 of the electoral law forbids parties to “carry out bribery of the voters,” “to present them with monetary means, presents or other material valuables.” However, the CEC has taken notice that in reality, parties give out such “material valuables” on a regular basis during pre-electoral campaigning. Examples include tee-shirts, hats and ball-point pens bearing the party logo. In order to facilitate the legalization of these promotional methods, the Commission has proposed classifying these items as printed literature, which isn’t prohibited or strictly regulated by law. The proposed rule-change allows each item to have a value of up to 400 rubles, or roughly 16 dollars.

CEC member Siyabshakh Shapiev spoke out against such a wide definition of “printed materials”:
“I have personally been involved… with the question of purchasing votes, and continue to insist that a mug remains a mug, no matter what logo is marked on it.

Another member of the Commission, Elvira Ermakova, noted that while a Moscow voter may not be swayed by such insignificant items, “in a rural district, residents will likely respond to such measures, where shirts and scarfs are being handed out.” So far, only the “principles” of the document have been accepted. A more formal version will be finalized this week.

Moscow city Duma deputy Vladimir Lakeev told news-agency Sobkor®ru that the party in power uses much more serious means than gifts of small-value items to convince voters. “It would be better if the CEC paid attention to the facts of actual voter bribery,” Lakeev said, presenting the example of the “United Russia” giving out groceries to pensioners on the eve of past elections.

The discussion began on October 12th, when Federal Duma deputy Vladimir Nikitin (of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation) sent an official inquiry to the public prosecutor of the Pskov oblast. The inquiry related to the dissemination of notebooks and pens with “United Russia” emblems throughout the region’s schools. Nikitin believes that the handout of items to students shows an attempt to buy the vote of their parents. Previously, on October 10th, deputies of the Moscow city Duma accepted the first reading of new legislation, which established the administrative responsibility of educational institutions to prevent the coercion of students into joining a political party.