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Human Rights Defenders urge PACE to acknowledge the absence of democratic elections in Russia

Source: HRO.org (info), 23/09/11

· Electoral Rights · Monitoring of violations · Human Rights Defenders

The Human Rights Council of Russia has called on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to acknowledge that democratic elections no longer exist in Russia.

"We have to admit that on the whole the current condition of the institution of elections in Russia complies neither with international obligations, nor even with national legislation”, the statement reads, signed, among others, by Ludmila Alexeeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Oleg Orlov, chair of Memorial Human Rights Centre, and other human rights defenders.

According to Grani.ru, the authors of the statement point out that, for instance, a whole series of Russian opposition parties have been denied the right to participate in elections, as well as access to major TV channels and newspapers, “despite the fact that their programmes and statutes are based on the priorities of a democratic society.” The statement says: “Such political parties as The Other Russia, People’s Freedom Party, Russian United Labour Front (ROT Front) and others have been denied registration. Although the decision to dissolve the Republican Party of Russia – another opposition party – was declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights, that decision has not been reversed by the authorities.”

The human rights defenders urge PACE “to take note of the fact that the institution of democratic elections in the Russian Federation has in practice been destroyed, to discuss Russia’s failure to observe its obligations regarding the conduct of free elections and to appeal to the Venice Commission to carry out an assessment of electoral legislation and of the law on political parties in Russia.”

The authors of the statement also demand that observers be sent to Russia and say that the Human Rights Council of Russia “is ready to provide assistance and recommendations.”

On 14 September, Vladimir Churov, chair of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, declared that the number of observers proposed by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for State Duma elections was excessive. According to Janez Lenarčič, the Director of ODIHR, the State Duma elections will be monitored by 260 OSCE observers: “There will be 60 long-term observers and 200 short-term observers.” Churov responded: “No explanation has been offered. They simply said that’s what we want – and that’s it.” He added: “I believe that a reasonable number would be optimal, and an optimal number – reasonable.”

Early in September, at an extended meeting of the Council of Heads of CIS States in Dushanbe, President Dmitry Medvedev declared that “international observers who come from the OSCE occasionally demonstrate a politicised approach in assessing the preparation and conduct of elections.” The Russian President continued: “Such an approach, to be honest, is often based on double standards.” He also pointed out that “as a rule, these delegations consist of a huge number of people.” According to Medvedev, delegations sent to other countries by the ODIHR consist of 10-15 people, “whereas 300-500 people come to us.” He added: “I believe that we have long had a reasonably efficient monitoring mission from CIS countries, as well as a group of observers from the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS.”

According to an August survey by the Levada Center, 54% of Russians are convinced that the December elections in Russia will be falsified. More than half of the respondents believed that the allocation of seats in the State Duma will be decided by the authorities. Every other respondent forecast the use of a large number of “dirty tricks” during the Duma elections. Among the violations during the preparation and conduct of the up-coming elections, respondents included the pressure placed on voters by local authorities (26%), the use of “dirty tricks” (22%), bribing of voters (21%), bias in media coverage of the election campaign (19%), and the manipulation of voters’ lists and ballot cards at polling stations (19%).