International Observers Comment on the Validity of Russian Elections

Dec 05, 2011, 06:45 ET from The Institute of International Integration Studies

MOSCOW, December 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

'Fair election', observers conclude, as United Russia's majority narrows

International observers invited to witness voting in Russia's nation-wide Duma (parliamentary) elections issued a preliminary statement today offering cautious praise for the voting and tabulation process, indicating they saw few gross or obvious signs of widespread irregularities. The observers, who were located in Moscow, Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod and other major centres, concluded that the election generally met international standards.

Election Day (Sunday 4 December 2011) was monitored by numerous international groups, including the OSCE, with 51 monitors from twenty different countries, as well as countless internal monitors from all participating parties.

At a joint press conference at the Russian Centre of Industry and Trade in Moscow today, a panel of observers concluded, in contrary to reports of violations, that the election process was "good".

Commenting on Russia's electoral procedures Charles Crawford, former UK ambassador to Serbia, Bosnia and Poland, said:

"Observers need to gain an insight into the integrity of the electoral rules, the way those rules are applied to actual voting, and the general context in which the elections have been held.

From what we saw, the voting system itself and the underlying legislation look robust. Different procedures help curtail potential abuses: new electronic counting machines, supported by options for physically counting votes in case of appeals; counting votes in polling stations themselves straight after the voting ends; supervised arrangements for taking ballot boxes to disabled people unable to get to the polling station; and options for a citizen transferring  at short notice  his/her vote to another voting district. Such detailed arrangements reinforce the credibility of the process as a whole."

"This election has been monitored by numerous external and internal 'official' observers, above all the political parties competing in the elections themselves. Increasingly Russia's citizens themselves are able to spot possible abuses and use the Internet to 'crowd-source' the observation process. That is a positive development, which is going to grow fast in the years to come."

Crawford, who monitored the election process in Russia's fifth largest city, Nizhny Novgorod, some 400km east of Moscow, was invited to attend the election with a number of other respected current and former European politicians and diplomats by the Institute of International Integration Studies and the Russian Election Commission. Among them were Anthony Salvia, Director of American Institute in Ukraine, and Anton Kutov, MP Bulgaria, and secretary of Bulgarian Socialist Party, as well as a number of MPs from countries including Spain and Serbia.

Kutov commented: "Unlike with the 2010 Ukranian elections the Russian parliamentary elections were relatively fair. We managed to see more than a dozen polling stations and there were no signs of the  violations that have been mentioned in the media."

Pedro Mourinho, an observer from Spain, added: "We are satisfied with the conduct of this election. The election was of a European standard. There were of course a few problems but they are going in the right way."

Preliminary results have declared that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party has around 50 per cent of the vote, representing a loss in majority, with the Communist Party achieving nearly 20 per cent, and new centre-left party, Just Russia gaining the third largest share of votes with 13 per cent.

The election which began at 8am on 5 December in Vladivostok in the far east of Russia, and concluded 19 hours later in San Francisco, in the USA, was contested by seven parties.

Notes to editors

The IIIS is a Russian think tank, based in Moscow and set-up in 2008 as a non-governmental, non-commercial public organisation to discuss and promote closer relations between the Federal Republic of Russia and its neighbours, through round table discussions, seminars and conferences in and around Europe and the world. The Institute's main aim is to carry out studies of integration processes in the post-Soviet space, Europe and other parts of the world in the fields of politics, economy, defence and security.

SOURCE The Institute of International Integration Studies