On 29 August 2018 Ella Pamfilova, the Chairperson of the CEC of Russia, explained the stages of consideration of the initiative to hold a possible referendum as well as the degree of preparation of the CEC of Russia to its possible appointment.
According to Ella Pamfilova, as of today 67 election commissions of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation received 101 applications to register regional subgroups with necessary documents. 58 subgroups were registered while 10 regional subgroups were refused the registration as the wording of their question was coincident with the wording of a question, submitted by other regional subgroups.
On the incorrect question from the Communist party
"If we receive a question and it is in line with the Federal Constitutional Law "On the Referendum of the Russian Federation", we approve it," said Ella Pamfilova. Thus, the CEC of Russia approved five questions. All groups had completely equal opportunities, but for the very first one, initiated by the Communist Party, the question was formulated incorrectly".
Ella Pamfilova explained that the preparation for the referendum is a fairly long procedure and, even if hypothetically assuming that all procedural formalities were met, it will be only possible to conduct a referendum next year.
"By that time the corresponding Federal Law about pensions may be adopted in one or another wording. And in this case, the wording that the Communist party suggested would put voters in a very tough position because, in fact, based on its wording, voters could approve only the state of the pension system that was legislated by the State Duma at the time of the referendum," said the Chairperson of the CEC of Russia, "that's what was incorrect and inaccurate. That is why we together with our colleagues from the Communist Party made adjustments to the question and simultaneously approved the questions of three regional subgroups during one of the CEC of Russia’s meetings. I would like to stress – simultaneously! All had equal starting opportunities and no one was ahead of the Communist Party".
On the stages of the possible referendum
Ella Pamfilova said that if the existing regional subgroups reach an agreement then they will have time to unite and reregister with one question.
"As of today, we are completely ready to start the next stage that will begin if regional subgroups on one of the questions are registered in more than half of regions and the CEC of Russia receives an application to register an initiative group for the referendum of the Russian Federation," said Ella Pamfilova, "If our initiators of the referendum unite and complete all the necessary procedures then the process of application to the CEC of Russia to register an initiative group to hold a referendum and a question for the referendum should be carried out no later than two months after the registration of the first regional subgroup, that is before 9 October 2018."
Ella Pamfilova said that in that case the CEC of Russia should make a decision to register an initiative group and authorized representatives, including authorized representatives for financial questions, and should make a decision to issue the permit for creation of a special account for the referendum. This procedure should be carried out in 10 days after the receipt of the application, i.e. such a decision must be rendered no later than 18 October.
"Imagine that the stage of collecting signatures in support of the initiative for the referendum was a success. The collection of signatures shall be held within 45 days, i.e. it should be finished no later than 2 December," said Ella Pamfilova, "Then follows the submission of signed lists to the CEC of Russia as well as of the first financial report of the initiative group on the use of funds from the account. It must be done no later than 18:00 on 2 December. The CEC of Russia is responsible for checking the order of signature collection and the filling of signature sheets. If all goes well, then within 30 days from the day of receipt of signature sheets and documents, i.e. not later than 31 December 2018, a decision on the results of nomination of the initiative to hold a referendum should be issued".
Not later than 5 January 2019 the CEC of Russia sends its decision to the President of the Russian Federation and notifies both Chambers of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. Not later than 10 days from the date of receipt of the documents, the President shall forward them to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation with inquiry about conformity of the initiative for the referendum to the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
As reported by Ella Pamfilova, the Constitutional Court examines the request and in case of a positive decision, the President of the Russian Federation appoints a referendum no later than 15 days from the date of receipt of the decision. After that, within 5 days the official publication on the nomination of the referendum is issued.
"Voting day is the Sunday in the gap from 60 to 100 days from the day of official publication of decision to hold a referendum. Thus, voting day can be Sunday from 7 April to 12 May 2019," said Ella Pamfilova, "the CEC of Russia, for its part, is seriously prepared for a possible referendum. We calculated the possible cost of the referendum, the preliminary costs of its organization, prepared a planning and financial justification. If such a referendum will be held, the CEC of Russia is ready to settle all issues, including financial ones. We know what to do in this case and what adjustments to make to the budget."