Electoral Monitoring Group Dissolved

The upcoming Russian Parliamentary elections are shaping up to be the least transparent in recent memory. As we recently reported, official monitors from Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have yet to be invited into the country. Now, it appears that domestic watchdog groups are also abandoning their posts, with unclear reasons.

On October 18th, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on the dissolution of a major watchdog coalition named Civil Pool. The organization had been pieced together in the spring as a tool to collect the resources of various electoral-monitoring groups, and to help coordinate their efforts in the run up to Parliamentary and Presidential elections. With no explanation, the group disbanded and destroyed any trace of its existence (including the website – http://www.pravonavirbor.ru). Ella Pamfilova, Civil Pool’s lead organizer, and head of the Presidential “Council for assisting the development of the institutions of a civil society,” could not be reached for comment.

Aleksandr Auzan, leader of one of the coalition’s groups (the Social Accord National Project Institute), spoke about the move to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He explained that Vladimir Putin’s decision to run as head of the United Russia party ticket of October 1st had made it clear that the coalition’s efforts were futile:

“We dissolved ourselves… We decided not to make any public statements but to comment individually on our positions. Everyone comments on their own behalf and is responsible for what they say.

“What was the Civil Pool meant for? We were trying to rescue the dying Russian electoral system. Proceeding from the position that the president would not take part in the campaign in any guise, and that he was committed to this campaign being as legitimate as possible. We are not naive people – and we were counting on gaining real opportunities to correct the situation because of the differences between the interests of the head of state who is leaving and his entourage which is staying. For example, that we would be able to bring about a dissolution of the electoral commissions in the regions where there were obvious violations in the spring elections and have sanctions imposed on television and radio companies which violated the legislation etc. There were no guarantees but we did talk to the president about this. At a January meeting with public activists he gave assurances that he was committed to the campaign being conducted on a competitive and legitimate basis. And the factor of public observation was very important there.”

Free and open elections are essential to a democratic system, and electoral monitors are the tools that measure the level of fairness. When these monitors throw up their hands in protest, it become shockingly apparent how flawed and problematic the current electoral system is, and how actively the Kremlin is working to subvert it.