Litigating Election Integrity before International Human Rights Courts: Prospects and Limitations

We continue with publishing our ElMaRB seminars and today we want to share with you the recording of the seminar “Litigating Election Integrity before International Human Rights Courts: Prospects and Limitations”, which took place on the 7th of April. The talk was given by Dmitry Kurnosov, Carlsberg International Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki. ElMaRB project leader Margarita Zavadskaya acted as a discussant.

During the last decade, the issue of electoral integrity has become increasingly prominent both in scholarly studies and in political discourse. On the one hand, we see the proliferation of competitive authoritarian regimes, which hold elections, but deny their participants a level playing field. On the other, advanced democracies experience increasing citizen dissatisfaction with the quality of democracy. In these circumstances, could international human rights courts play a constructive role?

The right to free and fair elections is enshrined in global and regional human rights instruments. Some of them can be relied upon by individuals in litigation against governments. My research looks into how this avenue is used, and whether international human rights courts can meaningfully improve election integrity.

I argue that the experience has been mixed so far. Litigation before international human rights courts has highlighted a number of important issues connected with election integrity. International judges have on many occasions addressed the challenges facing democracy in a contemporary environment. However, there are substantial limitations for litigating election integrity in an international setting. Often governments see elections as an essential part of their sovereignty. Therefore, they either ignore the decisions of international human rights courts or strike back against them. Mindful of these challenges, judges often adopt a cautious approach to election cases, limiting the potential scope of their decisions.

COVID-19 skepticism in Russia and its potential political effects

This spring our project seminars, where we talk about various issues, including electoral malpractice, cyber-security, and political consequences in Russia and beyond, returned with a presentation given on 31st of March by Margarita Zavadskaya. In her talk “COVID-19 skepticism in Russia and its potential political effects”, Margarita talked about the research she is conducting now with Boris Sokolov, the senior research fellow at LCSR HSE.

In this study, they explore how various socio-demographic attributes, values, attitudes, and personality traits of COVID-19 skeptics differ from those of the rest of the Russian population, finding several interesting contrasts in terms of values, trust, and political attitudes. The researchers use data collected during the first round of the international online panel survey “Values in Crisis” (in short ViC; fieldwork mid-June 2020, N = 1527). They operationalize COVID-skepticism as support for the idea that the Corona pandemic is a hoax and that all the lockdown measures are a hysterical overreaction, indicated by 38% of our respondents. Moreover, being a coronasceptic is a stronger predictor of political trust and political support than all the other pandemic-related variables available in the ViC questionnaire and most socio-demographic characteristics.

The comments to the research were provided by Anna Tarasenko, visiting researcher at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki and docent at the Department of Political Science and International Affairs, Higher School of Economics Saint Petersburg.

If you missed the seminar, you can watch the recording of it below:

Russia’s GenZ: Progressive or Reactionary?

Margarita Zavadskaya wrote an article for Riddle about what values the youth in Russia shares. In the piece titled “Russia’s GenZ: Progressive or Reactionary?” Margarita explores whether there is indeed a generational change in Russia, along with the growing demand for a new political reality? And does the Russian youth really have more liberal normative values than their older fellow citizens? Margarita Zavadskaya answers these questions, based on the comparison of the value orientations of survey respondents aged 15-25 with those of older age. This comparison is based on the World Values Survey and the European Values Survey for 2017.

Read the full version of the article on Riddle in English or in Russian.