Russian elections “free but not fair”, says Council of Europe

Both the OSCE and the Council of Europe have said that Russia’s parliamentary elections failed to meet many democratic criteria. The OSCE referred to “regression in the democratisation” of Russia.

The result of the 7 December elections in Russia was "overwhelmingly distorted" by pro-government bias, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said on 8 December 2003. A top representative for OSCE, which had about 400 observers in Russia for the weekend vote, said that "Our main impression of the overall electoral process was [...] one of regression in the democratisation" of Russia.

The elections in Russia "failed to meet many OSCE and Council of Europe commitments, calling into question Russia's willingness to move towards European standards for democratic elections", the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) said in a statement. At the same time, the OSCE praised the Russian Election Commission "for its professional organization of these elections".

David Atkinson, the head of the observer mission of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly said that "We have regarded this election as free, but it is certainly not fair".

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the US shares the OSCE's concerns about the fairness of the elections.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who won a sweeping victory in the vote, has hailed the weekend's parliamentary elections as another step in the strengthening of Russian democracy.

The elections were followed by more than 1,100 international observers from 48 states.

Russia's economic and commercial presence has been steadily increasing within the EU. The Union's enlargement in May 2004 is expected to further enhance bilateral relations.


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