16 december 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Minister of Communications and Mass Media Igor Shchegolev

Vladimir Putin instructed the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media to install, together with the Central Electoral Committee, video cameras at all voting stations in Russia. “It would be best to have cameras at all voting stations in the country,” the prime minister said. He also instructed them to discuss with the public various ways to implement this plan.

Transcript of the start of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Shchegolev and Mr Siluanov, good afternoon.

You must have heard how I discussed with the public greater transparency in elections during yesterday’s televised Q&A session. This also applies to the presidential election scheduled for next March. I suggested installing video cameras at all voting stations to make it possible to monitor in real time what is happening there both during the voting and the tallying.

I understand that technically this may not be an easy task but we are carrying out the programme to upgrade and provide additional equipment for our electoral system – the Central Election Committee (CEC) and all other election commissions and voting stations. I’d like you to step up this work together with the CEC and today I’d like to hear your proposals on how to do this and in what timeframe. Needless to say, everything must be done before next March.

Let’s begin with the money. As far as I understand, we have the funds that have been already allocated for modernising the electoral system. What can you say about this funding?

Anton Siluanov: Mr Putin, we really do have the funds allocated for the Information Society programme. We can find the money for the tasks you mentioned in this programme.

It won’t be necessary to make amendments to the budget law for this purpose. We can simply redistribute the funds that have been allocated under this programme for the purposes we are now discussing. Moreover, the programme has an additional reserve that can be used directly to equip election commissions with cameras so as to make transparent both the elections and the process of counting votes. We’ll find the resources together with the Communications Ministry and draft amendments to the programme. To sum up, there is enough money to implement the task you set.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. There is one more aspect to which I would like to draw your attention – the use of this equipment in the future. The majority of voting stations (I think there are 93,000 all in all) are located on temporary premises – primarily schools, houses of culture and the like – that have been adapted for the purpose. I think if we use considerable funds for the equipment it makes sense to use it after the elections in the same schools, say, for remote teaching of school children and so on. Mr Shchegolev, what would you like to propose?

Igor Shchegolev: Mr Putin, together with the CEC we have elaborated a programme for upgrading the technological foundation of elections in this country. According to several estimates, we will have spent up to 15 billion roubles for these purposes (the programme must be completed by 2015). This is huge money.

We started calculating yesterday what funds will be required for this programme and this particular task and our tentative estimates show that we will need big sums – more than one billion roubles. It goes without saying we are all interested in spending this money with a view to the future and for future elections and to make sure that in between elections the communications channels that we will build… We must not just put up some stands and fix cameras on them. We must be able to send a signal to the Internet via these cameras and this is a challenging and very expensive task. And this is why this is a big and serious project.

We will do all we can and will mobilise our colleagues and builders to carry out this task. But, of course, we will need the cooperation of the Finance Ministry and more work with the CEC.

Vladimir Putin: It would be best to have cameras at all voting stations in the country. I assume you will do all you can but let me repeat that the maximum goal is to equip all stations with cameras without exception. This is the first point.

Second, different sums are being quoted from two or three billion to 15 billion, as you have just mentioned. This is serious money for our national budget. I would like you to do the following – publish the proposals of your experts in the Internet today together with the CEC and discuss with the public different versions of implementing this plan. We must choose the most rational and least expensive one.

Igor Shchegolev: Mr Putin, with your permission we will publish our tentative estimates in different categories and create a site where all interested parties could conduct real time discussions and express their opinion on engineering aspects, technology and a list of priorities as regards voting stations.

Vladimir Putin: But the goal of this discussion is timely implementation of the programme – before the start of next March.

Igor Shchegolev: Absolutely.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.