среда, 7 декабря 2011 г.

Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission

INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVATION

Russian Federation, State Duma Elections – 4 December 2011

STATEMENT OF PRELIMINARY FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

Moscow, 5 December 2011

This Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions is the result of a common endeavour involving the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

Petros Efthymiou (Greece), Head of the OSCE PA Delegation, was appointed by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office as Special Co-ordinator to lead the short term observer mission. Tiny Kox (Netherlands) headed the PACE delegation. Heidi Tagliavini (Switzerland) is the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM).

This assessment was made to determine whether these elections complied with OSCE commitments and Council of Europe standards, as well as with national legislation. In many regions of the country, regional and local elections were held concurrently with the parliamentary elections and were observed only to the extent that they may have impacted the conduct of the latter. This statement of preliminary findings and conclusions is delivered prior to the completion of the electoral process. The final assessment of the elections will depend, in part, on the conduct of the remaining stages of the election process; in particular, the tabulation and announcement of results, and the handling of possible post-election day complaints and appeals. The OSCE/ODIHR will issue a comprehensive final report, including recommendations for potential improvements, some eight weeks after the completion of the election process. The OSCE PA will present its report at its 2012 winter meeting. The PACE delegation will present its report at January 2012 part-session.

PRELIMINARY CONCLUSIONS

The preparations for the 4 December State Duma elections were technically welladministered across a vast territory, but the elections were marked by the convergence of the State and the governing party. Despite the lack of a level playing field during the electoral process, voters took advantage of their right to express their choice. Although seven parties ran, the prior denial of registration to certain political parties narrowed political competition. The contest was also slanted in favour of the ruling party as evidenced by the lack of independence of the election administration, the partiality of most media, and the undue interference of state authorities at different levels. This all did not provide the necessary conditions for fair electoral competition. The legal framework, however, was improved in some respects and televised debates provided one level platform for contestants.

The legal framework is comprehensive and provides an adequate basis for the conduct of elections. However, structurally, the legal framework is overly complex and open to interpretation, which led to its inconsistent application by various stakeholders, often in favour of one party over the others. Laws guaranteeing the right of assembly were in some cases applied restrictively, undermining contestants’ rights. Numerous amendments to the legal framework were adopted since the last elections. A number of changes improved certain elements of the electoral process, although the recent reduction of the parliamentary threshold to five per cent did not apply in these elections.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) adopted detailed instructions to facilitate preparations for the elections. It held regular sessions and took most decisions unanimously, without debate. The manner in which the CEC dealt with complaints undermined contestants’ rights to effective and timely redress. Representatives of most political parties expressed a high degree of distrust in the impartiality of election commissions at all levels and questioned their independence from various state administration bodies.

The denial by the Ministry of Justice of registration to a number of political parties reduced the choices available to voters. In one case, the European Court of Human Rights recently ruled that the state’s disbanding of one party was disproportionate and constituted an unlawful interference in the party’s internal functioning.

воскресенье, 25 сентября 2011 г.

Once and future President

Financial Times

Twenty years after the Soviet collapse, with all the hopes that inspired that Russia might embrace democracy, it comes down to this. A Russian electorate consisting of one person has decided that Vladimir Putin will return as president next year.

Though Mr Putin’s popularity is not what it once was, there is little doubt this will come to pass. Russia’s tightly controlled political system will not allow any credible challenger to stand against him next March. Indeed, no such challenger has been given the chance to emerge in recent years. All the state’s resources will ensure that Mr Putin returns for what, under new electoral rules, could be 12 more years.

It is wrong to overstate the significance of this decision. Mr Putin has, after all, remained Russia’s paramount leader throughout the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev – which has been disappointingly short on achievements. His return to what is constitutionally the top job preserves at least one small shred of democracy, in that Mr Putin is still more popular than his protégé.

Yet a new Putin presidency is nonetheless a retrograde and risky step. Mr Medvedev has firmly embraced, at least verbally, the modernising political and economic agenda that Russia sorely needs. While he failed to build his own political team or support base – crucial omissions – he associated himself with advisers of like mind. A second term as president could have provided the opportunity finally to consolidate his position and start delivering reforms, especially if Mr Putin’s influence had begun to fade. The former president’s lingering authority has always stemmed in part from the possibility of his return.

Mr Putin has, by contrast, shown little appetite for modernising reforms, or much understanding of their urgency. His instincts are cautious, conservative. But the stability he promised in the first years of his presidency after the chaotic post-Soviet transition of the 1990s has turned, over time, into a straitjacket that is hampering Russia’s development.

If it is to return to the 5 per cent-plus annual growth it needs to catch up with the world’s advanced economies, Russia must allow more competition of ideas and policies, and reduce the state’s distorting role in the economy. It must tackle the corruption that is corroding the Russian system from within. It has to replace “managed” democracy with the institutions of genuine pluralism. Mr Putin may yet surprise the doubters by moving in this direction. But that would mean dismantling central elements of the very system he put in place in his previous eight-year presidency.

Mr Putin’s return will complicate Russia’s relations with the west, too. President Barack Obama’s “reset” brought results in part because Washington found it easier to deal with Mr Medvedev in the front-of-house role, even if Mr Putin was managing the back office. Germany’s Angela Merkel has similarly cultivated the current Russian president, but is on frostier terms with Mr Putin.

If Mr Putin does shrink from reform at home, however, he risks sowing the seeds of his own downfall. Stirrings of disillusionment are starting to show up in pollsters’ research. These may not be strong enough to prevent the Kremlin from managing the transition of power. But unaddressed they are likely to multiply.

A whole generation of Russians has reached voting age that was not born when communism collapsed. This generation gets its news not from Kremlin-controlled television but from an internet which, unlike China, Russia has never censored. Russia’s next president should take account of such shifts. Otherwise, like Arab counterparts, he could yet discover the power of social networks – and of the street.

среда, 14 сентября 2011 г.

Billionaire Condemns Party He Led as a Kremlin ‘Puppet’

By Ellen Barry and Andrew E. Kramer

MOSCOW — It has been a long time since a Russian billionaire attacked the political system. In the past, it has not ended well.  

On Thursday, Mikhail Prokhorov described Russia's party system as an elaborate sham orchestrated by a “puppet master” within the Kremlin walls. By the time he finished, Mr. Prokhorov seemed to have gambled with the most valuable asset a Russian businessman can have — good relations with the Kremlin and its most important occupant, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin. 

Mr. Prokhorov’s comments were prompted by the public meltdown of Right Cause, a pro-business party that was restarted this spring in hopes of winning the loyalty of disgruntled elites. The party had all the hallmarks of “pocket opposition” — Kremlin-sponsored projects that cast themselves as antigovernment but steer clear of challenging Russia’s leaders. 

Until now, Mr. Prokhorov had denied that Right Cause was operating in this way. But the party deteriorated into rancor this week, when party members voted to oust Mr. Prokhorov over his staffing decisions and leadership style. 

Mr. Prokhorov blamed micromanagement from the Kremlin for the debacle. He reserved his harshest words for Vladislav Y. Surkov, the deputy head of the presidential administration.
“I am not willing to take part in this farce,” he told an auditorium full of reporters, calling on his supporters to “leave this puppet Kremlin party.” 

“In this country there is a puppet master who long ago privatized the political system, who has long misinformed the Russian leadership about what is going on in the political system, puts pressure on the media, and tries to manipulate citizens’ opinions,” he said. “This puppet master is named Vladislav Surkov.”
There are precedents for this kind of confrontation. Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, an oil tycoon who was financing a true opposition party, is serving a 13-year sentence for embezzlement. Vladimir A. Gusinsky and Boris A. Berezovsky, whose media outlets criticized the government, fled the country to avoid prosecution. 

четверг, 25 августа 2011 г.

She is Number 3!

About halfway through last week's controversial elections in two St. Petersburg municipalities, the state television channel Rossiya showed up to election precinct No. 1348 to film the proceedings. The young TV reporter buttonholed a tall young man with a dim face and a pink shirt -- an election observer sent by the ruling party, United Russia. 

"So," said the reporter. "We just need you to stand here and say everything is going well." 

"Everything is going well," said the election observer. "We are very pleased with the high turnout." 

In fact, everything was going swimmingly, both for the observer and his candidate, the former governor of St. Petersburg, Valentina Matviyenko. As the other United Russia observers chastised reporters for talking and tried to keep photographers away from the voting booth, Matviyenko was just a few hours away from winning representation to the municipal council in a landslide. 


суббота, 6 августа 2011 г.

Russian Village’s Self-Defense Underlines Failures of Police

By Seth Mydans

SAGRA, Russia — When Sergei the Gypsy wanted to show who was boss in this tiny settlement on the edge of the Ural Mountains, he gathered a posse of armed men and drove down a narrow road through the night, illuminating the forest with his headlights.

They are coming to kill us,” one of the villagers shouted, and Viktor Gorodilov, who was in his bathhouse, threw on some clothes and joined a small group of men with shotguns, pitchforks, chains and knives to guard the road. “We just had three guns, including me,” said Mr. Gorodilov, 56. “But they didn’t expect any resistance, and we had them in our hands.” 

суббота, 4 июня 2011 г.

Alexander Lebedev has announced he is quitting business in Russia

Alexander Lebedev
   Lebedev said security service pressure on his banking business had become so great it was impossible to continue. Last November, the National Reserve Bank headquarters in Moscow were raided by 30 masked police officers while the billionaire, the financial backer of the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was inside the building. The announcement came one day after Lebedev released a video detailing the raid and alleged corruption by the Federal Security Service officers involved. 

   Also he has written to the head of Russia's security service offering his experience from 11 years of service with the organisation to help to expose corruption in business and the country's "power structures".

   The entrepreneur, who has been an outspoken critic of the Russian government, said a number of FSB generals had been targeting his business with claims that he held "unlawful intentions". He pointed out that similar allegations had been levelled by the FSB at Sergei Storchak, a finance minister and friend who spent 11 months in prison before the case against him fell apart in court.

   In an open letter to Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the FSB, Mr Lebedev said: "I am ready to offer my experience to help expose the corruption which pervades Russia\'s financial sphere and the country\'s power structures."

   Also he wrote on his blog, "What’s business if it only exists in a state of battle with the FSB?"

понедельник, 14 марта 2011 г.

March 13 Election Results in Russia: Reaction against Modernization

         The 13th of March was the common voting day in Russia and 3208 election campaigns and local referendums were held all over the country. It’s clear now that elections were much dirtier than in October, 2010. After an increase in rates for household electricity, gas and other utilities, United Russia's popularity now at its lowest level in more than a year. However, disenchantment with United Russia suppressed turnout, but did not drive voters to support the opposition.  
          The key campaigns contested seats in regional parliaments. These took place in 12 regions, including three republics (Adygea, Dagestan, Komi), two autonomous districts (Chukotka and Khanty-Mansiisk) and seven regions: Kaliningrad, Tver, Kirov, Nizhny Novgorod, Kursk, Tambov and Orenburg. What made the current round of elections particularly important is the fact that they were the last campaign before elections for the State Duma and the subsequent presidential election.
          Voters went to the polls on Sunday amid complaints of numerous violations, including unsanctioned rallies by pro-Kremlin groups, crude measures to block election observers’ views of ballot boxes, attempts to stuff ballots for United Russia, campaigning next to polling stations, transporting of voters, intimidation of voters and others. Irregularities in the voting outside the polling stations were the most widespread. It’s extremely significant that violations became aggressive because it’s impossible now to ensure governing party’s victory by using moderate meddling as it was in former times. Also a governing party started to use a new offensive tactics of mass distribution of messages in Twitter and social networks about alleged violations by oppositional candidates and parties against United Russia and its protégées.It was done in order to gloss over information about serious and real violations against independent and oppositional parties, candidates and domestic observers.
          It’s clear that the regime is not aware of the changed situation in the world. Uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, riots in Bahrain and Yemen (and in Kyrgyzstan last year) resulted in Russia only to rigging elections even dirtier and tightening the screws by the regime more impertinently.