Russia’s Constitutional Vote: France, EU and the International Community Must Not Recognise Results

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The vote on the amendments to the Russian Constitution has just been completed. This is undoubtedly one of the most important votes for Russian citizens, as it has the potential to determine the country’s political and social life for the coming years. However, there is no doubt that Russian citizens have been deprived of their right to take part in the vote in accordance with international standards. FIDH and Russie Libertés call on France, the European Union and the international community to not recognise the results of this sham referendum.

For one, the authorities disregarded the prescribed procedures required to adopt the amendments. The vote on substantive amendments to 14 articles of the constitution was in fact carried out by a procedure not foreseen by Russian law, particularly by means of a nationwide constitutional vote, in order to circumvent the 2004 federal referendum law, which provides that amendments to the Constitution must be voted on individually by the electorate.

Furthermore, since the proposed changes concern the first two chapters of the Constitution, the "Fundamentals of the Constitutional System" and the "Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen", Article 135 requires that a new Constitution be adopted by a Constitutional Assembly, followed by a referendum. Neither the law governing the formation of the Constitutional Assembly, nor the organ itself, were put in place by the Russian authorities. Rather than abide by these procedures, the authorities held a nationwide constitutional vote, in an attempt to give the proposed amendment an air of legitimacy.

According to several independent NGOs, including Golos, an independent election monitor, this vote does not comply with Russian law and international standards. In particular, the requirement of a fair and transparent campaign, access for observers, transparent voting procedure, and other criteria guaranteeing a democratic election process were not fully respected. Numerous violations of the electoral code were reported: fraud, multiple voting, the obligation for some employees to vote against their will, unfair campaigning, and failure to follow procedures in polling stations.

All these factors lead us to consider that the results of these elections are neither reliable nor legitimate, and do not fully reflect the will of Russian citizens. Faced with this observation and with what could be described as a ‘sham democracy’, we call on France, the European Union and the international community to not recognise the results of this election and the ensuing consequences in terms of amending the Russian Constitution.

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