A complete bewilderment is caused by the statement of the Press Secretary of the European External Relations Service of 26 December 2017 on the decision of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation about the refusal to register Aleksei Navalny as a candidate at the 2018 Presidential elections – due to his court conviction, which, in the opinion of the authors of this statement, “casts a serious doubt on political pluralism in Russia and the prospect of democratic elections”.
We must state that such a declaration demonstrates complete ignorance of or disregard for the Russian electoral legislation, does not correspond to the actual circumstances of the case and is not based on any norms of international and national law. As a result, far-reaching assumptions about the alleged “absence of political pluralism and democracy” are hastily made about the elections that have not taken place yet.
In this regard, there is a legitimate question: what caused the privileged concern, expressed in this way, exceptionally for Mr. Navalny? Why before this case the EU never expressed similar concerns about other Russian citizens who, as Navalny, were refused registration due of convictions for committing a serious or particularly serious crime?
It should be recalled that since 2012 when this restriction was introduced, about 250 individuals were not admitted to elections of different levels on the same grounds, however that did not cause concerns about the lawfulness of these decisions from anybody, including euro-officials.
In connection with the misapprehension that has arisen it should be clarified once again that the restriction introduced in 2012 is related only to a conviction not for any offence, but only for serious or especially serious crimes. This means that the restriction is not applicable to persons convicted for committing crimes of low or medium gravity. Moreover, this restriction applies only to persons sentenced to imprisonment. It does not apply to persons sentenced to other types of punishment, for example, to arrest, correctional labor or a fine.
In 2013 the issue was considered by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, which recognized this restriction as constitutional but noted that its application should not be of unlimited duration.
Attention should be drawn to the fact that in coming to this conclusion the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation took into account the position of the European Court of Human Rights on this issue, expressed in five decisions on complaints of citizens of Belgium, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Lithuania and Italy.
As a result, in 2014 amendments were introduced into the Law “On Election of the President of the Russian Federation”, that set up the duration of specific time limitation for this restriction depending on the category of crime (the period of 10 years from the date of the withdrawal or annulment of conviction for serious crimes, and the period of 15 years in cases of particularly serious crimes).
The declared in the statement postulate that politically motivated charges should not be used to obstruct participation in political processes deserves attention. While in principle it is difficult not to agree with, this postulate is absolutely out of place in relation to the case in question because it does not correspond to the well-known decision of the ECHR, which did not find a political context in the court decisions on the Navalny's case. The reference to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights is only misleading, because the ECHR in its decision rejected the key argument of A. Navalny's complaint under Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Moreover, the decision of the CEC Russia to refuse Aleksei Navalny to be registered is not related to the ECHR court trial of 2013, which was mentioned in the statement. The decision of the CEC Russia was made on the basis on the new conviction, rendered to in 2017 following the results of a newly conducted trial at the national level. Also, on 30 December 2017 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation confirmed the compliance of the CEC of Russia decision with the existing legislation.
On 6 January 2018, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, in the appellate instance, confirmed the legality of the decision of the CEC of Russia.
As for the invitation by the Russian Federation to representatives of the OSCE/ODIHR to observe the elections of the President of the Russian Federation such an invitation has been already sent on 19 December 2017.
The Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, which has an independent status in decision-making – both from the executive and legislative authorities of the country – hopes that in the future representatives of such a serious institution as EU prior to making such statements will research more seriously the national documents and factual circumstances without relying on various dubious information, and will not allow actions that could be interpreted as interference in the election campaign for the position of the President of the Russian Federation.