Medvedev accuses OSCE of double standards

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev participating in a session of the Council of the heads of CIS countries (RIA Novosti / Dmitry Astakhov)
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev has criticized OSCE observers monitoring elections in former Soviet republics for double standards and a politicized approach.

On Saturday, speaking at a meeting of the leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Medvedev slammed the European monitors for attempting to destabilize the situation in Russia as well as in other post-Soviet countries.

The president pointed out that the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) sends “huge” delegations of up to 500 members to monitor elections in the CIS, while the body's missions to countries “that have problems” are made up of only 10-15 observers.

“As a rule, delegations of observers who are sent as part of ODIHR procedures include a huge number of people and international monitors from the OSCE. This sometimes demonstrates an openly politicized approach toward assessing the way elections are prepared and held,” Medvedev said, as cited by Interfax. “Let's not conceal it – this approach is very often based on double standards.”

The Russian leader stressed that all the CIS states “seek to hold free and democratic elections.” However, he added, that does not mean paving the way for external force to intervene “in the sense of shaping the situation in our countries from the outside."

As an alternative, Medvedev suggested increasing the role of the CIS observers, which would better serve the strengthening of democracy as well as further the development of political systems on the post-Soviet territories.

The chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alekseeva, believes Medvedev's latest statement might be a step towards blocking a plan to allow European observers to monitor Russian parliamentary elections in December and the presidential vote in March 2012.

As for the president's criticism concerning “huge delegations,” Alekseeva noted that coming to watch elections in Greece is one thing, while coming to Russia is a different story.

“We should be glad that our country is given such attention,” she told Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG) daily.

The OSCE – the world's largest security body with 56 member states from Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America – has repeatedly criticized elections in Russia and in some other former USSR members, branding them as neither free nor fair. In the 2007-2008 election season, Europe's main election watchdog canceled its mission to Russia after the sides failed to come to a compromise over the size and scope of the OSCE delegation.

Back in July, Russian public organizations that co-operate with the Central Election Commission (CEC) stated that they could monitor December parliamentary elections without the help of international observers who, they said, had discredited themselves.

However, Head of the Russian Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov said that he would send invitations to foreign observers after meetings with representatives of international organizations. On September 13, he is expected to meet with the head of the ODIHR. During the 2007 elections to the State Duma, the organization refused to send its observers, citing, in particular, visa problems faced by members of the mission. Moscow called the move politically-motivated. This time, Churov intends to listen to monitors’ proposals and requests before sending them official invitations.