A programme to train public election observers for Russia’s upcoming presidential election has been launched in Makhachkala. Organisers say that 90 people have so far registered to take part, and that the number continues to rise.
On 11 February, initial training for observers took place with the organisers, lawyer Marat Ismailov and IT engineer Ruslan Magomedov.
The first training sessions in Daghestan took place in the lead up to 2016 parliamentary elections. This year activists created a website in which anyone can register to become a public observer.
Organisers say the 11 February session taught people wishing to become observers their rights and responsibilities during elections, as well as how to behave at election stations. They say they want to ensure that they shed light on violations they think are likely to happen during presidential elections on 18 March.
Magomedov told OC Media that the idea for the initiative came after what he observed during the two previous elections to the State Duma in 2011 and 2016.
‘In the 2011 elections, I voted for Yabloko. In the morning I checked the results in that voting station and found that there were zero votes for Yabloko. I understood that it’s not enough to simply go and vote, and I decided to be an observer during the next election’, he said.
During the 2016 elections — which President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia convincingly won — observers from the OSCE noted ‘numerous procedural irregularities’. They also said the election was ‘negatively affected by restrictions to fundamental freedoms and political rights, firmly controlled media , and a tightening grip on civil society’, as well as a lack of ‘distinct political alternatives’.
The public observers OC Media spoke with said they are sure Putin will win the election, but maintain that it is their ‘civic responsibility’ to observe the elections.