Observers term Russian poll ‘skewed’
MOSCOW RUSSIA’S presidential election was skewed in favour of Vladimir Putin during the campaign and the ballot was marred by irregularities, international observers led by the OSCE said on Monday.
“Conditions (for the campaign) were clearly skewed in favour of... Vladimir Putin” while the vote count was “assessed negatively in almost one-third of polling stations observed due to procedural irregularities,” they said.
Heidi Tagliavini, the head of the Election Observation Mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), called for an investigation into all allegations of electoral violations.
“Although the authorities made some effort to improve transparency, there remained widespread mistrust in the integrity of the election process,” the diplomat said in a statement.
“As a first step, all allegations of electoral violations need to be thoroughly investigated,” she said.
The observers’ post-poll report said that Putin had received a “clear advantage” through his massive dominance of media coverage and had benefited from a mobilisation of state resources to boost his campaign.
The observers assessed the voting on election day “positively overall” despite procedural irregularities, but the situation deteriorated during the counting of ballots, the report said.
Mass protests unseen for decades in Russia, sparked by alleged fraud during parliamentary polls in December, had influenced the authorities to make some improvements to the election process, the observers said.
“This movement had a substantial influence on the electoral campaign,” Tiny Kox, the head of a delegation of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, told a news conference in Moscow.
The protests helped make it clear to Russian voters that “something had to change”, he said.
The international mission also praised the role played by thousands of Russians who acted as independent observers during the polls.
“Russia should cherish these people who got involved in the political process, who only had one demand — let us have free and fair elections,” Kox said.
Innovations like the placing of web cameras in some 90,000 polling stations as an attempt to increase transparency were welcome but ultimately proved inadequate, the observers said.
“These are positive steps, however they turned out to be insufficient so far to stop widespread mistrust,” Tagliavini said.
In a widely-expected landslide victory, Putin secured almost 64 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election, winning back the Russian presidency which he held for two terms from 2000-2008 before his four-year stint as prime minister.
His nearest rival, the Communist Party boss Gennady Zyuganov, trailed well behind.
“The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia,” said Tonino Picula, head of the delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
Kox added: “The competition lacked fairness and an impartial referee was missing.”