International election observers get down to business

Members of an election commission at the seats reserved for observers at the polling station in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya (RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko)
The CIS observer mission has started its work ahead of the March 4 presidential election in Russia.

­Eighteen long-term observers have already been accredited, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said on Friday. Another 22 will join them, bringing their total number to 40.

The official election campaign kicks off on Saturday, a month ahead of the poll.  Candidates will be given free airtime on TV and will also be able to promote their ideas through paid commercials in the electronic and print media. A series of live TV debates between the candidates will take place throughout the coming month.

 “I ask you to make an objective assessment of the media and their contribution to the election campaign, as well as their attitude to all the five registered candidates and the opportunities to speak out and render their position,” CEC head Vladimir Churov said during a news conference.

In addition to the advance party, another 160 observers will arrive two or three days prior to polling day. This extended group will include parliamentarians from the CIS member states, public leaders and diplomats.

Overall, 600 international observers are expected to monitor the Russian presidential election. Apart from the CIS mission, there will be observers from OSCE/ODIHR, PACE and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.