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.
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.