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November 18, 2007
Election Watchdogs Cancel Russian Poll Monitoring Effort
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the main election monitoring group in Europe, has cancelled its plans to observe the Russian parliamentary elections early next month:
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe claimed Moscow had imposed “unprecedented restrictions” on its activities. Russia had slashed the number of observers it would admit to the December 2 election and then repeatedly delayed issuing visas for OSCE monitors. This is just one more indication that Russian President Vladmir Putin is slowly strangling democracy, substituting rule by he and his KGB cronies for the rule of law. No one doubts now that Putin will manipulate the vote in order to achieve his desired result - a compliant parliament that will offer him no opposition.
The move marks a new low in diplomatic relations between Russia and the west, following clashes over energy, the expansion of Nato into the former Soviet Union and US plans for missile defence bases. The west accuses Russian president Vladimir Putin of suppressing democracy while the Kremlin claims the west seeks to interfere in Russia’s internal affairs.
Indeed, Putin is rigging the election so that his own party - United Russia - will be virtually guaranteed a huge majority:
The move could cast doubt in the west on the legitimacy of an election that has taken on increasing importance after Mr Putin said he would head the party list of the main pro- Kremlin party, United Russia. With very little in the way of independent media to keep an eye on him, it seems clear that Putin will get what he wants in the elections scheduled for December 2.
It will highlight concerns over a poll that has already been marred by changes to electoral laws that look likely to ensure no opposition party will pass the 7 per cent barrier required to win a parliamentary seat, especially as opposition parties have faced a clampdown on campaigning.