‘No Significant Violations’, International Observers Claim: by Mikhail Plisyuk

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were not the only international observers at the 2012 Russian Federation Presidential Elections on March 4. And despite the OSCE’s claims that the election was unfairly biased towards one candidate, a separate contingent of independent international observers, who viewed the ballot process in cities across Russia, from Nizhny Novgorod to Chelyabinsk, have said that in general there were “few violations” in Sunday’s vote.

The increased media and public attention on the election was as a direct result of significant political activity in Russia in the last 3 months, including mass protests both in support and opposition to Vladimir Putin, and his candidacy. As a result there were greater numbers of international observers present at the March 4 vote than at the parliamentary elections in December.

After visiting different parts of the country they shared their observations.

A member of the Senate of France European affairs committee Joel Guerriau, who observed the voting in St. Petersburg, was surprised by the Russian tradition of voting in pairs and families. The senator also pointed out that not all voters voted in booths: “The transparent ballot box allows you to see the choice made, and that doesn’t fully meet the procedure of the private expression of will.” However, he and his colleagues, paying respect to the transparency of the election and to Russian traditions, did not consider this to be a violation.

Observers from Spain,Madrid’s Mayor Councilor David Ergido and the member of the Board of the Spanish People’s Party Pedro Mourinho, who observed the elections in Mordovia, were surprised by the high turn-out of voters despite the bad weather. “In Spain a snowfall would have significantly hindered the expression of will among citizens” – Mourinho told reporters. In general, according to Spain’s representatives,Russia left Europe behind in matters of “public control and transparency of elections.”

Web cameras at all polling stations meant that the election process in Chechnya’s auls to the towns lost in the hills of Kamchatkacould be observed from any place in the world.

Anthony Salvia, Director of American Institute in Ukraine, who visited elections in Nizhny Novgorod, and fellow American James George Jatras, a policy expert and political scientist, who observed the elections in Chelyabinsk, also expressed their surprise. Jatras said that the election met all international standards: “I didn’t notice a single violation at any of the seven polling stations I visited.”

According to Jatras, this opinion is shared not only by observers of the presidential candidates, but also by ordinary voters with whom he managed to speak with. He also expressed confidence that his colleagues who came to the Southern Urals from other countries would agree with him, but stressed that he does not represent any position of the U.S.government, who has their own officials present at the election.

The transparent ballot boxes, according to Mr. Jatras, were a “very interesting phenomena of the election.” While in the United States such boxes aren’t used a special device for counting ballots similar to the Russian COIBs (Complex Processing of Ballots) is applied. As a result paper ballots are not saved, only electronic records are left. In this regard, as the observer noted, many American voters do not trust the results.

“Following our visit to the polling stations we can state that the Russian system of surveillance has surpassed all world’s standards,” an independent observer from Italy, a member of the City Council of Venice, Alessandro Musolino, who observed the elections in Moscow said.

“The elections took place as should be expected, without any violations. It’s amazing how such a complex electoral mechanism works so well.” An observer from the Czech Republic, Jan Mladek, agreed with him saying that Russia“left many countries behind” in this matter.

Mikhail Plisyuk is a Director of the Institute of International Integration Studies, Moscow…

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