TI Russia finds systematic misuse of state resources in election campaigns

Monitoring the misuse of administrative resources during the campaign for the December 2003 Russian Federal state Duma elections

The misuse of administrative resources - resources of the state and public sector, such as state-controlled media, official staff time, telephone and transport facilities - is increasingly recognised as a serious type of political corruption in elections, particularly in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Such misuse undermines attempts to regulate election campaign finance and violates basic standards of democracy such as fair competition between incumbent and opposition parties.

The Centre for Anti-corruption Research and Initiative/Transparency International-Russia, working with the Open Society Justice Initiative, has developed a methodology to quantify the extent of the misuse of administrative resources for electoral purposes. The project was piloted at the Russian Federal state Duma elections in December 2003 and uncovered systematic misuse of state-controlled media by the governing party, which, when calculated in terms of the real cost savings to the party's campaign, exceeded the legal limit on campaign spending.

A detailed explanation of the project can be found in the report Monitoring the misuse of administrative resources during the campaign for the December 2003 Russian Federal state Duma elections which was launched last week in Moscow. The methodology used draws from NGO experiences of monitoring of the influence over politics of large private donations - specifically from the business community. This new monitoring tool could be usefully adopted by NGOs working in all regions of the world.

The main findings of the report include:

  • Media resources were systematically misused during the campaign period, usually for the benefit of the United Russia party.

  • Institutional resources were widely misused, particularly the engagement of state officials in campaign activities and the use of public premises for campaign purposes.

  • There was no evidence of widespread misuses of financial resources.

  • The financial impact of misuses of administrative resources was major; the value to the United Russia party of its media coverage alone exceeded the legal limit on campaign spending.

  • In addition to these softer types of administrative resources monitored, the monitoring also indicated that other more coercive types of administrative resources were misused to a significant extent.

  • Case studies revealed detailed misuses of administrative resources, in particular illegal campaigning and the use of public office for campaign purposes.7. Election commissions at all levels failed to enforce campaign regulations by failing to respond to complaints, rejecting well-founded complaints and/or failing to initiative court proceedings.

  • At a discussion forum held last week to mark the launch of the report, leaders of the parties, members of parliament, representatives of the Central Electoral Commission, journalists, NGOs and academics agreed that the misuse of state resources is the most significant form of corruption in political finance in Russia today. Participants at the discussion also agreed on the following:

  • The proposed typology of the abuse of administrative resources should be used in subsequent monitoring efforts.

  • Political parties, independent politicians, journalists and civil society organisations should work together to combat the abuse of administrative resources.

  • Electoral legislation should clearly define abuse of public office not in general terms but in terms of concrete activities. Training should be provided to members of electoral bodies and courts as to what constitutes abuse of public office during elections.

  • Electoral bodies should play proactive role in monitoring of the abuse of public office during the elections.

  • Media coverage of parties and candidates during the elections should be carefully regulated

  • Monitoring should be carried out at local (regional, municipal) elections in order to initiate legal proceedings and raise public awareness.

  • Public education campaigns could help raise awareness of the costs to the country of the abuse of state resources for electoral purposes. Journalists could help keep the issue on the public agenda.

  • For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

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