14 Sep, 2021

Despite crackdown on the opposition, Yabloko seeks to compete in Russian elections

Despite the crackdown on opposition candidates and parties, ALDE Party member party Yabloko will participate in the poll starting 17 September and will be listed under number 7 in the State Duma elections ballots.

In addition to the State Duma elections, candidates of the Yabloko party – the sole opposition party on the ballot critising the current policies and offering a programme of change - will participate in 56 election campaigns at the regional and municipal levels in 27 regions of Russia.

A total of 975 candidates from Yabloko were registered: 654 on party lists, and 321 in single-mandate constituencies, but still many of the Yabloko candidates were not admitted to the elections for political reasons.

And those who have been registered have also faced difficulties on their campaigning, with campaign banners and leaflets being destroyed or stolen, campaigners detained and many candidates being deregistered, and some granted registered again upon appeal to courts by the party.

The party has also been forced to display it has as a “foreign agent” on its list because of the inclusion of political prisoner Andrei Pivovarov, who currently is in the Krasnodar pre-trial detention centre, and was nominated as a candidate within the Yabloko candidates list of the Krasnodar regional group.

Well-known politician Lev Shlosberg was removed both from the party’s federal electoral list and a single-mandate constituency in Moscow, which the party described theaccusations against him are untrue and deliberately orchesterated”.

Another candidate Boris Vishnevsky, a prominent parliamentarian who heads the Yabloko faction in the local legislature in the city of St Petersburg and is seeking re-election, even discovered that not only is he facing two candidates with the same name and surname – a previously seen spoiler tactic - but the two spoiler candidates had also changed their physical appearance in a bid to sow additional confusion amongst voters.

Nikolai Rybakov, the Chairman of Yabloko and the party’s lead candidate on the list for the elections to the State Duma, has travelled the country as part of the campaign and announced that elected deputies from the Yabloko party in the new State Duma would give up all their privileges and donate more than 75% of their salaries to orphanages and charitable foundations.

“We believe that such benefits and privileges are impossible in a country where the salary of every fifth worker in the regions is about 15,000 roubles, and every third worker in the education sector receives less than 15,000 roubles. There should not be such a disproportionate difference in the country between the salaries of deputies and the salaries of the people they represent,” he said, pledging that Yabloko MPs will introduce appropriate bills in the new Duma in order to make other MPs to follow their example.

For its part, fellow ALDE Party member party Parnas, was denied participation and has given its support to Yabloko candidates in the vote. Following a meeting of its Federal Council, the party issued a statement saying: “All these years, the People's Freedom Party (PARNAS) has consistently advocated for the consolidation of democratic opposition. And under the circumstances, we believe that the only way to consolidate based on common values and principles is to vote for the Yabloko party list. Yabloko became the only party allowed to participate in this election that upholds the principles of democracy and freedom that are close to us. We urge all democratic citizens, including supporters of political prisoner Alexei Navalny, to vote for the list of the Yabloko party in the elections to the State Duma.”

As a result of the constitutional changes adopted by the Parliament last year, the vote will take place over three days from 17-19 September. Half of the 450 seats are elected in single-seat constituencies and the other half by party list with 5% threshold.

This year the Central Electoral Commission prohibited access to video recordings from polling stations for all citizens and all observers, only electoral commissions, candidates, special observation centres, ombudspersons and members of the presidential Human Rights Council will have access. Political parties will have a limited number of PCs that have access to video observation.

Numerous international election observers, including the OSCE who will not send election observers for the first time in nearly three decades due to "major limitations" imposed by Russian authorities.

You can read more about the Yabloko campaign and its manifesto here, which insists on the release of all political prisoners, an investigation of the Alexei Navalny’s poisoning, the abolition of repressive laws and the Presidential term reset.

Photo credit: Elisabetta Stringhi

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