European Parliament May Punish Russian Bureaucrats

Heidi Hautala. Source: Vihrealanka.fiDeputies from the European Parliament say the results of election observing in Russia could lead to sanctions on Russian civil servants, Kommersant reports.

On April 10, a conference on the international monitoring of parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011-2012 was held in Moscow. Russian human rights advocates called for fundamental reform of legislation governing elections, parties and public associations.

Noting that Russia no longer has direct elections for regional governors and arguing that parliamentary and presidential elections “have turned into an empty ritual,” Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva said that it was only possible to change the situation through protests and demonstrations. Head of the electoral watchdog Golos, Liliya Shibanova, spoke of “a multilayered system of filtration during and falsification of elections” and called for “strict monitoring and an appeal to international organizations.” And leader of the Interregional Association of Voters, Andrei Buzin, added that the new makeup of the Central Electoral Committee (TsIK), headed by Vladimir Churov – famous for what has been called his “unsurpassed” loyalty to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – “provides the basis to assume that the coming elections will be held like past ones.”

The activists said the TsIK should only “point out violations committed by candidates” and that the courts should be responsible for denying parties registration or taking them off the ballot, not them.

The minimum number of members needed to form a party should be reduced to 5,000 from the current 45 thousand, they added.

Members of the conference called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Parliament to use their influence to “assist with the registration of parties,” to do away with censorship of the mass media and to stop “the persecution of the opposition” in Russia.

European Parliament deputies Kristiina Ojuland and Heidi Hautala said the parliament already has a group doing preliminary monitoring of upcoming Russian elections that includes members of all of the country’s political forces.

“We should have the same policies toward Russia as we do towards Belarus,” Hautala said, noting that the European Union has already placed sanctions on Belarusian civil servants.

Russian opposition politicians present at the meeting spoke about the persecution of the opposition. Other Russia party leader Eduard Limonov said the recently created People’s Freedom Party was “doomed to be denied registration” and that there was no point in directly monitoring elections if they “are already being falsified right now,” when the authorities have already denied registration to seven other opposition parties.

One of the leaders of the People’s Freedom Party, Boris Nemtsov, said the Russian authorities are not preparing for elections, but for “a special operation to preserve money and power under the slogan ‘we’re going to fight to the end.’”

On February 17, the European Parliament issued a critical resolution on Russia’s human rights situation. Deputies expressed concern over the conviction in the second criminal case against oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, and called upon the Russian authorities to do everything possible to institute a fair and transparent judicial system in the country as previously promised by the Russian president.