Democratic Forces in Russia Publicly Decry Elections

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A group of public figures in Russia has released a statement criticizing the March 2nd presidential elections, and lamenting the loss of political freedom in the country. The group, which is handling plans for the formation of an All-Russia Congress of Democratic Forces, was formed after at a meeting of opposition forces in early April.

A Declaration by Members of the Coordinating group on preparations for the All-Russia Congress of Democratic Forces

An event will take place in Moscow on May 7th, which the Kremlin announced as the “inauguration of the president of the Russian Federation.” With a bitter taste, we are compelled to state that the past presidential elections (just as those to the State Duma), in reality are not as such, and their results cannot be recognized as at all representative.

A competitive political system has been completely destroyed in Russia. Only those political figures and organizations that have passed a review for loyalty to the Kremlin have access to the political space. Those, that raise even the slightest doubt of loyalty in the ideological bureaucracy are blocked off from the political process. They are either completely shut out from elections, or are prevented from reaching a satisfactory outcome with the help of administrative resources, subordinate mass media, and if the need arises, with direct interference in the electoral process. There are no longer any electorally significant independent media in Russia – all the federal television channels are under direct ideological conformity to the presidential administration. This means that any unconstrained electoral campaigning is impossible. Russia’s judicial system no longer stand guard over electoral legislation. While making the appearance of serving the Law, it in practice serves as an obedient tool in the hands of the executive branch.

It was exactly under such circumstances that the March 2nd 2008 presidential elections in Russia were carried out.

Consequently, these elections can in no circumstance be recognized as free.

The March 2nd elections passed with a vast number of violations and falsifications, which were established by numerous observers from both Russian, as well as international civic organizations. Direct ballot stuffing, [ballot] forgery, [and] restricted access for observers at polling stations became the country-wide practice.

Consequently, these elections can in no circumstance be recognized as fair.

All the aforementioned allows one to conclude that a basic democratic principle was violated in the course of the presidential elections in Russia – the principle of the citizen’s free expression of will.

The development of a crisis in Russia, unavoidable under the continuation of the current monopolistic [and] parasitic course of the ruling faction, will force Russians to remember the problems of the authority’s legitimacy. The sole method to avoid the disastrous events of a future crisis in our country – is to restore the citizen’s downtrodden rights and freedoms, to abolish censorship, to reconstruct a competitive political space, [and] to conduct free and fair elections. We call on the authorities to undertake concrete steps in this direction. If this is not done, the responsibility of the ensuing developments of crisis in our country will wholly fall on the Kremlin and the White house*.

N. Belykh, chairman of board of the Union of Right Forces party
D. Bilunov, executive director of the United Civil Front party
G. Kasparov, chairman of the United Civil Front party
O. Kurnosova, chairman of the St. Petersburg branch of the United Civil Front party
V. Milov, president of the Institute for Energy Policy
B. Nemtsov, politician, public figure
L. Ponomarev, executive director of the “For Human Rights” movement
M. Reznik, chairman of the St. Petersburg branch of the Yabloko party
A. Ryklin, journalist
Y. Samodurov, director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Community Center

*[The Russian White House houses the offices of the Prime Minister and Government].