Elections Contested in Court

Elections Contested in Court

Published: September 21, 2011 (Issue # 1675)

The St. Petersburg Human Rights Council asked the Federation Council in a telegram Tuesday to postpone voting to elect former St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko as its chair.

The voting in Moscow is scheduled for Wednesday, the same day that court hearings about the controversial “secret” Aug. 21 election in the Krasnenkaya Rechka municipal district — that made Matviyenko an elected deputy — are due to open in St. Petersburg.

By law, the Federation Council’s chairperson must be an elected deputy.

According to Tatyana Dorutina, whose organization, Liga Izbiratelnits (the League of Women Voters), is part of the St. Petersburg Human Rights Council, the court might cancel the results of the election because of multiple violations, thus making her ineligible for the seat.

Matviyenko won an unprecedented 94.5 percent of the vote at the election in the small municipal district in the city’s southwest, with 3,830 residents voting for her, the St. Petersburg Election Commission reported last month.

The lawsuit was submitted by Pavel Yeremeyev, a registered resident of Krasnenkaya Rechka who was one of the observers, but it lists every violation reported by all the observers at the election, Dorutina said Tuesday.

Only a registered voter of the district where the election was held has the right to file a complaint to the courts, she added.

The lawsuit calls for the election to be ruled illegal and for its results to be canceled because of multiple violations, Dorutina said.

The main violations, according to Dorutina, involve the concealing of information about the planned election.

“It became known about the election only after the registration of candidates was closed,” Dorutina said Tuesday.

“The City Election Committee didn’t know about it, and nor, as it happens, did the people.”

Dorutina added that the Krasnenkaya Rechka Election Committee acted illegally by closing its doors on the day of the election, which made it impossible to submit complaints regarding the way the election was conducted.

“I went there myself to submit a complaint from our public organization the League of Women Voters, but the [men at the door] said that the commission was closed and does not accept complaints,” she said. “My testimony is included in the lawsuit.”

Dorutina added that observers also reported cases of ballot stuffing.

The local elections committee, however, said there were no “significant” violations.

The opposition, which was unable to offer its own candidates because information about the planned election was not available, described the election as a “farce.”

President Dmitry Medvedev proposed to make Matviyenko, St. Petersburg’s governor since 2003, the new speaker of the Federation Council in June.

The federal government was keen to replace Matviyenko, who was unpopular with St. Petersburg residents, before the Duma elections, analysts said.

Matviyenko was criticized for the planned Gazprom skyscraper, the demolition of scores of historic buildings in the center and her failure to deal with snow and icicles during the past two winters, which were described by her as “abnormal.”

At her final press conference as St. Petersburg Governor, Matviyenko dismissed a question about the legality of the election with a joke.

The preliminary court hearing into the lawsuit is scheduled to be held at the Kirovsky District Court at 11.40 a.m. Wednesday.

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