Russia Disallows Independent Scrutiny of Duma Elections

Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Photo: OSCE
Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Photo: OSCE

The Russian authorities cited the sanitary-epidemiological situation in the Russian Federation as the reason for the limitations.

By RMN News Service

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has said that it will not be able to send observers for the upcoming elections to the Duma due to limitations imposed by Russian Federation authorities on the election observation.

In a statement issued Wednesday (August 4), leaders of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and its Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) announced that Russia is limiting the number of observers citing the pandemic situation.

The OSCE is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections. Most of its 57 participating countries are in Europe, but there are a few members present in Asia and North America. 

“We very much regret that our observation of the forthcoming elections in Russia will not be possible,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “But the ability to independently determine the number of observers necessary for us to observe effectively and credibly is essential to all international observation.”

Mecacci added that the insistence of the Russian authorities on limiting the number of observers we could send without any clear pandemic-related restrictions has unfortunately made today’s step unavoidable.

According to the OSCE statement, Mecacci informed Russia’s Central Election Commission and the permanent delegation of the Russian Federation to the OSCE, while OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt notified the Head of the Russian Delegation to the Assembly. Both institutions had been invited to observe the vote scheduled for 17-19 September, but were subsequently restricted to sending 50 and 10 observers, respectively. 

The Russian authorities cited the sanitary-epidemiological situation in the Russian Federation as the reason for the limitations. At present, according to OSCE, no pandemic-related entry restrictions or rules about operating and moving within the country would seem to prevent the deployment of a full election observation mission in line with ODIHR’s initial assessment.

Meanwhile, the United States has denounced the restrictions imposed by Russian authorities to independently observe the Duma elections in September.  According to a statement issued on August 5, the U.S. Department of State said that the U.S. fully supports the ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly in their principled position that they cannot effectively observe the elections under such restrictive circumstances.

“Even though OSCE election observers cannot be present, the international community will be watching the Duma elections process – in the run-up to the elections as well as on Election Day – to determine whether the conditions are conducive to the holding of free and fair elections. Russia will not escape the international spotlight,” the U.S. Department of State said.

In the State Duma of the 8th convocation, the lower house of the Federal Assembly, 450 seats are at stake while 15 political parties have submitted documents for participation. In 2016, the ruling party United Russia had won with 54.2% of the vote, taking 343 seats.

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Rakesh Raman