Russian Election Commission unwilling to be taught democracy by foreign observers

International observers come under fire from Russian monitors (RIA Novosti / STF)
Russian public organizations that cooperate with the Central Election Commission (CEC) have stated that they could monitor December parliamentary elections without the help of international observers who have already discredited themselves.

Kommersant newspaper reports that on Tuesday, the head of the CEC, Vladimir Churov, the chair of the Russian Public Institute for Election Rights, Igor Borisov, Aleksandr Ignatov from “Civil Control”and representatives of the Russian Fund for Free Elections have all come together to voice their criticism for international observers. They said that while Russia is actively improving its electoral laws, nothing of the kind is happening “in some European states”.

“They believe they can allocate their best minds, efforts, and significant sums of money in order to teach democracy abroad. But they haven’t got any brains, power, or financial resources left for themselves,” Churov noted, while speaking about European monitors who are eager to “teach us something again”.

Igor Borisov believes that western organizations have already discredited themselves as observers, adding that “[The Public Institute for Election Rights] is Russia's only hope”.

According to Borisov, who is a former member of the CEC, none of the international monitoring organizations is based on a document comparable to the Convention on the Standards of Democratic Elections, Electoral Rights and Freedoms in the Member States of the Commonwealth of Independent States (which was adopted by several former Soviet republics).

He pointed out that the UN only uses Article 21 of the Declaration of Human Rights as its guide, which lacks clarity. And while the OSCE's Copenhagen Document on elections and democracy declares the principles for organizing and holding elections, those principles are not explained in detail, creating opportunities for manipulation by the observers.

The statement was made on the eve of a visit by a delegation from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to Russia, where the sides are set to agree to the format for monitoring State Duma elections.

Earlier, the CEC sent letters to international organizations, including the Office for Democratic Institutions, asking them to come up with proposals on both the format of monitoring the elections and the number of observers they would like to send to Russia. Speaking on Tuesday at a media conference at RIA Novosti, Churov said that the Warsaw-based organization had been avoiding a direct answer as the sides continued to exchange letters regarding the matter. During the 2007-2008 election season, Moscow and the OSCE failed to come to a compromise, which resulted in the organization boycotting the presidential and the parliamentary elections.

This time, as the parliamentary and presidential vote nears, Russia made a “very benevolent step” by beginning talks well in advance. “We are acting within the framework of international practice and have gone even further,” Churov pointed out.

The letters were also addressed to the CIS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Arab League. For the first time ever, the organizations were invited to visit the all-Russian federal training vote, which will be held from August 15 to August 30. However, the head of the CEC was quick to emphasize that at the election rehearsal, the delegations will be guests rather than observers. They will get the status of monitors later, when the election campaign is officially launched.

Meanwhile, as the March 2012 presidential election is still some time away, quite a few Russians have already voiced their desire to get the top job by demanding the CEC to let them register as candidates. According to Churov, people who write such applications can be divided in three groups: those who do not know the law, citizens who experience problems in life and simply want to write someone in order to get a reply, and, also, the trick is used by some politicianswho are seeking additional publicity.

"I foresee two empresses who are known by all Russians living in villages in the Moscow Region will again voice their desire to participate in the presidential elections," he added with a smile, cited Itar-Tass. He did not rule out that – as has happened in previous election campaigns - "several representatives of God and even some people who consider themselves to be God" might also apply for registration.

The CEC chair claimed that all the applicants would get replies.