Nine Million Russians 'Deprived Of Right To Be Elected'

The independent monitoring group Golos says legal restrictions enacted by the government have deprived at least 9 million Russians, about 8 percent of the eligible population, of their right to be elected as September parliamentary elections near.

In an analysis of the impact of a series of recent legal amendments, which it says are harsher than those in place in the Soviet Union from 1961 to 1991, the group said it is impossible to calculate the exact number of citizens who have now been deprived of their passive suffrage.

However, it added in the June 22 report, research conducted on the data available from state agencies shows that the total number of citizens who are prohibited by the state from running in elections is at least 9 million, and "most likely, significantly more."

"The entry into force of the new 'anti-extremist' amendments and the recognition by extremist organizations of the structures of Aleksei Navalny's supporters lead to the fact that several hundred thousand more politically active citizens may be under attack in the near future," it said in reference to a bill President Vladimir Putin signed into law on June 4 that bans supporters and members of organizations deemed by authorities as "extremist" from being elected to any public post.

Five days later, the political network built by Navalny, Putin's most-vocal critic, was deemed "extremist" by a Moscow court.

Many in Russia warned the law was an attempt to make it impossible for anyone connected with Navalny to gain public office.

Golos said that the electoral legislation in place in 2021 "returned to the early Soviet models," when the defeat of political opponents was used to consolidate the power of the Bolsheviks.

"The tradition of disenfranchising its political opponents in Russia has deep historical roots," Golos said in the report.

"The latest waves of attacks on the right of citizens to be elected, as in Soviet times, are obviously politically motivated," it said, adding that "in the event of a complete defeat" of the opposition, it's possible these new rules will be removed, just as in previous times.

While Russian authorities have been ramping up pressure on dissent ahead of the September elections, public opinion polls have shown that support for Putin's United Russia party is at the lowest level ever.

Navalny's regional headquarters has been instrumental in implementing a so-called Smart Voting strategy -- a project designed to promote candidates who are most likely to defeat those from United Russia.

Navalny is currently serving a prison sentence on embezzlement charges that he says were trumped up because of his political activity and criticism of Putin.

Golos said that the roughly 6 million dual nationals and those with foreign residence permits are the largest disenfranchised group of voters, while another 1.1 million people convicted of theft and more than 300,000 convicted of drug offenses have also been denied their right to seek office.

The monitoring group emphasizes that since late May, several high-profile officials have lost their right to seek office after they were convicted on questionable charges. These include Moscow municipal lawmaker Yulia Galyamina, an opposition activist in the Arkhangelsk region Andrei Borovikov, a former lawmaker in the Vologda region Yevgeny Domozhirov, the leader of the For New Socialism movement Nikolai Platoshkin, Communist Yury Yukhnevich, and a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, Anton Mirbaldayev.

According to Golos, about 100 more noted politicians may lose their right to seek election in the coming months.

“The real goal of the latest amendments is not to protect the sovereignty of the people as a source of power, but to limit them as much as possible, to filter out candidates who are not acceptable to the current government,” Golos said.