Russian Presidential elections lack credibility
Three days ahead of the 4 March 2012 Presidential elections in Russia there is little doubt about the outcome. Despite increasing public protests against prime minister Vladimir Putin, all indications suggest that he will declare victory, probably after the first ballot. This will happen in an environment where free and fair elections are not possible. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) will be present in Moscow during the elections.
– On the eve of election day that the virtual absence of truly independent contenders to Putins candidacy impedes the legitimacy of the election, Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says. – The regime of Putin and Medvedev has produced a society where government controls main media, election monitoring groups are being harrassed and smear campaigns against the opposition forces are rife. With such unequal conditions for the political forces in the country, fair elections cannot take place.
However, some novelties have been introduced to meet the critisism against election freud. The NHC considers the introduction of transparent ballot boxes as an improvement making blatant ballot stuffing more difficult. Live streaming from almost all 94 000 polling stations in the Russian Federation may also be a workable tool to prevent fraud, but the NHC also fear that web-cameras may be perceived as intimidating by the voters who already may have been intimidated by officials.
The presidential elections take place amidst public protests against mass fraud in the Duma elections in December and against Putin’s return to the Presidency. The responsible authorities have failed to efficiently investigate thousands of complaints of violations during the December elections. This reduces further the credibility of the Presidential elections. While the authorities have allowed large demonstrations to take place in Moscow and some other cities, a concerted campaign against civic activists, NGOs, independent media and election monitors has taken place. Our cooperation partners in Russia the humen rights group Memorial and Golos, an election observation group, have faced pressure in the form of hacker attacks on their websites, beatings of staffers and volunteers and official warnings on spurious grounds.
In a previous statement, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee expressed concern about the refusal to allow registration of candidates that might have represented a real challenge to Putins regime. In addition to Putin, four candidates were able to register: Sergei Mironov, A Just Russia , Gennady Zyuganov, Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Mikhail Prokhorov, independent. They should represent no real challenge to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s candidacy, as they all lack political support and credibility in the eyes of the population. Other potential candidates, that might have represented an alternative, such as Grigory Yavlinski, Garry Kasparov, Boris Nemtsov and 2008 presidential candidate Mikhail Kasyanov were either not allowed to stand (based on dubious decisions of the Central Election Committee) or unwilling to run.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee will be following the elections in Moscow, in cooperation with Golos; the most experienced Russian non-governmental organization involved in election monitoring. Golos have trained thousands of observers all over the country, and was pivotal in documenting election fraud during the Duma election. Documentation was posted on social media contrubuting to the mobilization of tens of thousand of protesters, despite the blocking of Golos’ website.
– Experience from the Duma elections shows how important it is to have non-state actors like Golos, to provide objective information about the election process, says Bjørn Engesland. Attempts at hindering their work add to the picture of a regime whose main interest is to remain in power, rather than to organize free and fair elections.
For more information:
In Russia 1-5 March:
Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General, mobile: +47 95210307
Olga Shamshur, Project Coordinator, mobile: +47 97735343
Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General, mobile: +47 95753350
Berit Lindeman, Head of Information, mobile: +47 90933379
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was established in 1977 and is an independent human rights organisation working to promote respect for human rights in Norway and internationally. We have a particular focus on the OSCE member states. We work through monitoring and reporting, project cooperation and human rights education. For more information see our homepage www.nhc.no and on Twitter: @nhc_no