On 27 July 2018 the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation held its 171st regular meeting.
On the question proposed to be discussed on a referendum of the Russian Federation submitted by the Moscow City Regional Subgroup of the Initiative Group for the referendum in the Russian Federation
Maya Grishina, the Secretary of the CEC of Russia, recalled that on 19 July 2018 the CEC of Russia received a notification from the Moscow City Election Commission. The notification said that on 17 July 2018 the Moscow City Election Commission received an application to register a Moscow City Regional Subgroup of the Initiative Group for the referendum in the Russian Federation on the question "Do you agree that in the Russian Federation the age of eligibility for non-contributory pension must not be increased?"
"The principled position of the CEC of Russia is that the question of holding a referendum on such a crucial matter that affects the interests of every citizen of the Russian Federation is legitimate,” said Ella Pamfilova, the Chairperson of the CEC of Russia, "Our citizens have a constitutional right to define and express their position about the pension system in the country. It's all in the details, in the wording of the question itself. Our goal is to determine the accuracy of the question. This is the goal of our meeting based on the direct authority of the CEC of Russia".
Maya Grishina noted that according to the Federal Constitutional Law "On the referendum in the Russian Federation" the CEC of Russia must make a decision about compliance or non-compliance of the wording of the proposed question to the requirements of the Federal Constitutional Law within 10 days from the day of receipt of the notification. The Secretary of the CEC presented the opinion on the question proposed to be discussed in a referendum of the Russian Federation.
"The proposed question includes the phrase "the age of eligibility for non-contributory pension" and does not provide any other characteristics related to this phrase which could sufficiently narrow its meaning for the participants of the referendum,” the opinion states, “This applies both to the absence of a definition of the precise age as well as to the absence of a definition of the type of pension mentioned in the question in terms of article 39 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
In particular, it creates an obvious uncertainty about the content of the question proposed by the initiators to be submitted for a referendum in the event of changes of its legal regulation during the course of the realization of the initiative for the referendum on the issue.
Under such circumstances the proposed wording of the question can lead the participants of the referendum into confusion about the legal consequences of the expression of the corresponding position, allows the possibility of its multiple interpretations and ultimately will not provide identification of the actual will of the people of the Russian Federation as required by paragraph 4 of the Decision of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation of 21 March 2007, No. 3-P.
Thus, the question proposed for a referendum in the Russian Federation "Do you agree that in the Russian Federation the age of eligibility for non-contributory pension must not be increased?" is not consistent with the requirements of part 7 of article 6 of the Federal Constitutional Law "On the referendum in the Russian Federation".
Representatives of the Initiative Group were invited to the meeting of the CEC of Russia and they answered questions from members of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation and mass media representatives.
After the detailed discussion, Ella Pamfilova stressed once again: "We are not discussing the question of legality of the referendum. The CEC of Russia gave a clear response that such a referendum is legitimate. We consider the wording of the question, the extent to which it will be clear to every citizen of Russia. And the proposed question is inaccurate".
"Regardless of the decision being made," Chairperson of the CEC of Russia told the members of the Initiative Group, "you have the right to expediently gather the Initiative Group and revise the question. We are ready to advise you and help you formulate the question so that it is accurate. I am certain that the members of the CEC will not have any objections," she said.
Nikolay Bulaev, the Deputy Chairperson of the CEC of Russia said: "Let me remind you that expenses related to the preparation and conduct of a referendum are compensated from the funds allocated for such purposes from the Federal budget. And we are not speaking about one, two, five or even eight billion rubles. This money should be spent to get an answer for a precise question and not just because someone decided to realize personal ambitions for Federal money".
The CEC of Russia decided to approve the opinion of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation on the proposed referendum question "Do you agree that in the Russian Federation the age of eligibility for non-contributory pension must not be increased?"