The process of liquidation of election commissions of municipalities (ECMO) is almost completed, said on Friday at a meeting of the Central Election Commission (CEC), its deputy chairman Nikolai Bulaev. This is logical, the expert explains: after municipalities, election commissions should also be built into a single system of public power. And finally, the triumph of the electoral vertical will be consolidated by the CEC-initiated refusal of the republican commissions to remove the word “central” from their names: like the president, there can be only one Central Election Commission in Russia.
If, as of March 1, 2022, There were 2,542 municipal election commissions in 56 regions, but by December 2, 2,459 of them had been liquidated, Nikolai Bulaev said at the meeting. Another 83 IKMOs in 24 regions are in the process of liquidation.
Amendments to federal legislation, according to which IKMO should be abolished by January 1, 2023, were adopted last spring. This step was explained by the need to optimize the structure of the commissions: in the federal center, municipal election commissions, which are formed by the municipalities themselves and organize local elections, have long been perceived as a relic of the regional freemen. The transfer of powers of the IKMO to territorial election commissions (TECs), built into the electoral vertical, has been encouraged by the federal authorities over the past few years. For example, in St. Petersburg, the process of transferring powers from the IKMO to the TEC was launched at the suggestion of the CEC back in 2019, following the results of a municipal campaign that was full of scandals. And in 2022, the State Duma simply left the municipalities no choice.
This decision was made in the context of the reform of local self-government, which is now part of the system of public power according to the Constitution, explains electoral lawyer Roman Smirnov. According to him, until now IKMOs have existed quite autonomously: they were formed by municipalities and were not built into the electoral vertical, and therefore were considered a “hotbed of voluntarism.” Indeed, the expert confirms, the IKMO often could afford to express the interests of local elites, and this was especially evident in the municipal elections in St. Petersburg. “Well, now we are witnessing the building of a unified system of public power, including electoral power,” concludes Mr. Smirnov: for local “barons” this may mean a reduction in freedom of maneuver, issues will have to be resolved at a higher level.
Mr. Bulaev recalled that one of the reasons for the liquidation of the IKMO was their control by those persons whose elections they organized. It was all the more strange to discover that the territorial election commissions, which exercise the powers of municipal commissions, “are again taken under the control of specific officials, as if no actions had been taken,” the deputy chairman of the Central Election Commission was indignant. This is especially true of the commissions of regional centers, he noted.
The attention of the CEC, in particular, was attracted by the situation in Voronezh, where the election committee of the Central District actively participated in trials, including challenging the decisions of the district commission. Nikolay Bulaev recalled that the formation of the TECs is directly carried out by the regional election commissions and they must take active measures to ensure that the subordinate commissions do not go beyond the legal framework into the field of politics. Conflict situations should be resolved quickly and in a “legal way”, the deputy chairman of the CEC instructed colleagues.
As the chairman of the CEC of Karelia Alexei Bakhilin said at the meeting, on November 24 the commission decided to rename the Election Commission of the Republic of Karelia. The development of the relevant bill is at the final stage, and in the near future it will be submitted to the Legislative Assembly of the region. “In conditions when the electoral system has been formed as a single vertical of electoral bodies, one Central Election Commission should be at the head of the system,” Alexei Bakhilin said. “You are on the right path, comrades!” – Approved the report, CEC Chairman Ella Pamfilova.
A “road map” providing for the renaming of the local Central Election Commission was also developed in Udmurtia, reported Svetlana Palchik, whom the CEC recommended at this meeting for appointment as chairman of the republican election commission. According to her, the decision has already been agreed with the head of the republic, the corresponding bill should be prepared by the summer, changes will have to be made in more than 20 legal acts, including the constitution of the republic.