Europe refuses to monitor Russian election

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has cancelled plans to monitor Russia’s parliamentary election in December, because of what it calls restrictions and delays. Moscow denies the claims.

The OSCE body, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, accuses Moscow of being behind the delays.

“We have not been able to obtain visas for any of our observers. It is simply too late now for us. We asked specifically that we would be able to deploy first 20 experts on November 7 and another 50 yesterday. But we have not received a single visa. We have not even been able to send our team, our logistics. As late as yesterday we were denied visas in Warsaw. We don’t see any other choice now but to cancel the operation,” Urdur Gunnarsdottir, a spokesperson for the Office said. 

However, Russia's Central Election Commission says it has abided by all the procedures and has even delivered visas to Warsaw for all of the delegation members.

Mikhail Kamynin, Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson said, “We are bewildered by the content of a letter sent by the Director of the OSCE's  Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to the Chairman of the Russia's Central Election Commission. The decision has been made after representatives of the Office visited Moscow, where they were informed of Russia's willingness to co-operate with the Office on the monitoring of the election.”

Russia's Foreign Ministry says it's up to the OSCE to decide whether or not to send observers to Russia.

“According to Russia's obligations before the international community, international observers will come to the elections, and some of them will be from OSCE countries. Russia is ready to meet all the conditions of the observers so they'll be able to exercise their functions,” Mikhail Kamynin said.

Indigenous minorities from Russia’s Far North 
            already have an opportunity to cast their ballots
Indigenous minorities from Russia’s Far North already have an opportunity to cast their ballots

And Igor Borisov, the Central Election Committee member, called the move a diplomatic step that was aimed at creating a negative atmosphere around the upcoming election.

“None of the international treaties specify a particular timeframe for the observers to be invited. This year several countries, including France and Poland, invited the OSCE three weeks prior to the polls. We sent out our invitations more than a month in advance. Also the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights complains about the number of the monitors invited. Meanwhile, we're ready to accept 70 people from the organization, while Poland invited only 12 observers and France and Belgium less than 10. We think political reasons rather than democratic principles are behind the decision by the OSCE,” Igor Borisov noted. 

OSCE's Chairman Miguel Moratinos says there is still enough time to settle all disagreements over the office's mission to Russia. If not, the observers from the OSCE countries will be able to monitor the Russia's election anyway. More than 300 delegates from all over the world have been invited, including those from European, Asian and American states, as well as from international organisations, among them Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Dmitry Babich, a political analyst from ‘Russia Profile’ magazine says he doesn’t “see how declaring certain countries undemocratic can’t help security and co-operation in Europe”.

Babich says “If the OSCE boycotts, basically boycotts the parliamentary election, that’s a very bad omen for the presidential election as well. That’s because the Russian state system only works if both branches of power – the executive and the legislative – operate together and if the laws adopted by the State Duma are signed by the President. If one of the entities is doubted, the other institution cannot operate properly”.

However, the analyst expressed hopes that “Russia and the OSCE will iron out the differences”.  

“There is still time for Russia to issue visas for OSCE observers and for the OSCE to drop its rhetoric and to send its observers to Russia as it was planned,” he said.

Meanwhile, more than 7,000 Russians living in inaccessible areas will get a chance to cast their ballots in the next two weeks.