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30 Jan, 2008 18:59

FSB must ensure stability during election: Putin

Vladimir Putin has urged Russia's security service, the FSB, to ensure the presidential election is free of outside interference. Meanwhile, Europe's leading election watchdog from the OSCE says it will not be able to properly monitor the presidential pol

“It is very important, during the presidential election period that we stop all external interference in our internal matters. Our country is a sovereign state, and we will not let any outsiders affect the course of our election campaign,” Putin said before adding: “It is a major task of all state structures to provide the democratic nature, and social and political stability for the election – to give our citizens an opportunity to make a free and conscious choice.”

“While uncovering violations, FSB officers must not step over the line of competence and they must always follow the letter of the law and respect the rights of economic entities and citizens,” Putin stressed.

Russia-OSCE debate
President Putin’s statements come amid debates between Russian election officials and international observers from the OSCE vote monitoring office.
Russian authorities say Europe's main election watchdog has been given enough time to get a balanced picture of the polls.
However, OSCE observers say they might not come to Russia at all, unless they're allowed to start work in the country earlier than February 28, three days before the March 2 election.

It’s not the first argument between Moscow and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Russian officials and experts have urged the vote monitoring office to develop universal rules for observer missions.

“They have the right not to come. And Russia has the right to set the duration of the mission. The solution is to have clear international rules on how early observers can come,” said Dmitry Babich from Russia's Profile magazine.
Last year’s parliamentary election in Russia received a lot of criticism from abroad.

But a recent report published by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe shows even some of the most experienced electoral systems have room for improvement.
The Commission concluded that the British system which relies on a general belief on the bona fides of citizens may eventually be a source of inaccuracies.

On Wednesday election officials said Russia as a part of the world community aims to bring all campaigning in the presidential election in line with international standards.
“Every country has its own peculiarities and a unique experience. While modelling its campaigning rules, the Russian Federation took international experience as guidelines and took good elements from it including guaranteed free air time for candidates to be able to campaign,” said Maya Grishina, Central Election Commission official.
The countdown to the most intense part of the Presidential election has begun.
And while Russian officials are working hard to ensure the ballot is within the law, the candidates are priming themselves to battle for the hearts of voters.