Russian Parties Had Uneven Playing Field in Vote, OSCE Says

Russia’s parliamentary election lacked fairness as the ruling United Russia party benefited from uneven access to state resources and favorable media coverage, international election monitors said.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe noted “serious indications of ballot-box stuffing” and other procedural violations during voting yesterday, the watchdog’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said today in an e-mailed statement.

“These elections were like a game in which only some players are allowed on the pitch, and then the field is tilted in favor of one of the players,” Heidi Tagliavini, head of the ODIHR’s observation mission, said in the statement. “Although the choice was limited and the competition lacked fairness, voters were able to come out and have their voices heard.”

United Russia, which is chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and was led in the vote by President Dmitry Medvedev, suffered an electoral setback as voters left it with less than half of ballots cast, according to a preliminary tally. The election was “absolutely fair, just and democratic elections,” Medvedev said today during a meeting with supporters outside Moscow.

‘Entertaining and Energetic’

“A more entertaining and energetic parliament will benefit our country,” Medvedev said. “No one has a monopoly on truth and the formulation of absolutely correct approaches.”

Monitors from the OSCE visited 150 stations, and assessed the counting at 34 of them as “very bad,” Tagliavini told reporters today in Moscow. Observers saw signs of possible ballot-box stuffing at 17 of them, she said.

The Yabloko party, which had 3.3 percent of the vote according to preliminary results, said not all of the ballots cast for them had been counted. The result is not sufficient to win seats in the Duma.

“We firmly know that many more of your ballots were cast than were ’counted’ by the bureaucrats responsible for the official result,” Grigory Yavlinsky, a founder of Yabloko, and Sergei Mitrokhin, its chairman, said in a statement on the party’s website. “We’ll defend your voices in Russian and international courts.”

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