Observers: All in all, elections up to scratch

Russia's Central Election Commission at work (RIA Novosti/Grigory Sysoev)
Despite some shortcomings, the State Duma elections were held in compliance with Russian law and international electoral standards, independent observers have said.

­The principles of universal suffrage, equality, openness, transparency and fairness were observed in the Russian parliamentary elections, international observers underlined in a statement issued on Monday, as cited by Interfax.

The group of 51 independent monitors was accredited by the Central Election Commission at the suggestion of Russian non-government organizations. The observers visited polling stations in different regions from Russia’s Far East to its westernmost exclave, Kaliningrad.

The experts’ coordinator Mateusz Piskorski, an observer from Poland, said that as part of their work monitors were filling in questionnaires evaluating the elections process. As a result, 88 per cent of questionnaires assessed the elections as “very good”, 10 per cent “good” and only 2 per cent as “satisfactory”. Piskorski pointed out that the criticisms mainly refer to technical issues and such drawbacks could not have affected the poll results.

Observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) also called the December 4 elections transparent and said they were held in compliance with the electoral law and universally recognized principles of democracy. The group of 208 experts visited about 2,000 polling stations at 39 Russian constituent units.   

However, the Duma vote has come under fire from some European observers. In particular, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and PACE stated there were a number of violations, including several serious cases of ballot-box stuffing during the vote counting. In addition, the observers accused Russian authorities of interference in the election process.

Petros Efthymiou, who led the short-term OSCE observer mission, said that the vote lacked election competitiveness since a number of parties were denied official registration. 

According to Martinus Josephus Maria Kox, head of the PACE observation mission, the Sunday election was valid.  

"This result shows that voting can make a real difference in Russia, even when the playing field is slanted in favor of one party. However, any election needs an impartial referee – and until now, it has not had one. This needs to change,” Kox told a media conference in Moscow, reports Itar-Tass. The expert added that Russia showed that it is technically able to organize a fair vote and now it is up to the parties to use this opening for real politics and make it a reality.

The OSCE noted in its statement that overall the Duma vote was held in compliance with both the Russian law and European standards.