International and Domestic Criticism Mounts

Duma ChamberEven as United Russia celebrates its victory in Russian State Duma elections, domestic and international criticism of the way they were handled is mounting. The Communist Party, which was second in the polls, is already promising to contest the results and demanding an investigation. Today, as further violations are surfacing, we bring you a round-up of quotes and responses to the elections from around the world.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which pulled a contingent of electoral observers from their mission before the election, made a joint statement with the Council of Europe:

“These elections failed to meet many of the commitments and standards we have in the OSCE and Council of Europe.”

“Merging of the state and a political party is an abuse of power and clear violation of international standards.”

The German Der Spiegel reported on other European reactions:

The European Union also voiced its concerns, with External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner stating that problems had been clear in the run up to the poll. “We saw some violations of basic rights, notably free speech and assembly rights,” Ferrero-Waldner said. The commissioner described the earlier pull-out of the OSCE’s main election monitoring arm as “very unfortunate.”

German Government spokesman Thomas Steg added: “There can be no doubt. Measured by our standards, it was neither a free, fair nor democratic election.”

The United States released a more muted reaction:

“Reports from Russia include that there were allegations of Election Day violations, and we have urged the Russians to look into those,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Inside Russia, questions were also being raised. Ilya Kriger wrote in the Novaya Gazeta:

Violations of the law are usual at elections, but in terms of their number, this election campaign has exceeded all the others in which I have been involved. The balance of parties that have made it into the Duma must be in line with the plans of United Russia’s leaders. There will now be only one opposition party in parliament – the Communists – but since they are yesterday’s party, it will be easier for the authorities to debate with it.

The Communists were one of the more vocal groups inside the country. Oleg Kulikov, Communist Party Central Committee secretary, commented that “these elections can’t be called elections”, since “most people were coerced into voting.”

The Moscow Times reported on the frustration and outrage within the Party: (Read an excellent Moscow Times editorial here.)

“We do not trust this data,” [Communist party leader Gennady] Zyuganov said.

He said he had hoped to win some 30 percent, mirroring the results of regional elections in March, and implied that Sunday’s outcome had been influenced by the Kremlin.

“These results coincide with what the Kremlin’s spin doctors were saying two weeks ago,” Zyuganov said in a loud and confident voice.

Overall, however, Zyuganov said he was satisfied that the party appeared to have cleared the 7 percent threshold for Duma seats. “The chamber provides an opportunity to outline our point of view,” he said. “We are the last remaining guarantee of the freedom of speech, democracy and human rights in our country.”

Leaders of the opposition also challenged the results.

Boris Nemtsov, the head of the Union of Right Forces, said “This is the most dishonest election that Russia has seen.”

Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky noted that “Today’s voting has involved serious violations of all articles of the [election] law without exception.”

Garry Kasparov, the Other Russia presidential candidate and leader of United Civil Front, was adamant:

“This will beat all records in modern Russian history for irregularities.”

“Putin has been destroying democracy, poisoning it for the last eight years.”