State Duma elections failed to meet democratic standards and were fraught with violations, Europe’s main elections watchdog said in a final assessment published Thursday. The report by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, mentions violations like “serious indications of ballot box-stuffing”, so-called group-voting and obstructions for observers. It also reiterates criticism of United Russia from the organization’s mission chief, Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, that the electoral “contest was slanted in favor of the ruling party.” “The distinction between the state and the governing party was frequently blurred by state and local officials,” said the report’s executive summary.
United Russia, led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, won the vote with 49 percent, 14 percentage points less than in 2007. But the OSCE report also lambastes “narrowed political competition” because of the denial of registration of parties.
The document stops short of questioning the elections’ legitimacy although it mentions the Dec. 10 and Dec. 24 mass protests, when tens of thousands in Moscow demanded the cancellation of the results and the dismissal of Central Election Commission boss Vladimir Churov.
The report ends with a list of 21 recommendations (to the government, political parties and civil society), in order to support “efforts to conduct elections fully in line with OSCE commitments and other standards for democratic elections,” thus diplomatically paraphrasing the failure to meet these requirements. Among the priority requirements listed in the report are “stronger efforts to ensure sufficient separation between the state and party” and a commitment by state authorities “to properly and effectively implement the principles of democratic elections.”