Election Assessments

Under current Russian law and international agreements, the Russian Central Electoral Commission (CEC) may invite foreign governments and international organizations to send observers to monitor the conduct of the Duma and presidential elections. They are authorized to meet with candidates, representatives of political parties and local election observers. After the polls close, observers are entitled to make public statements about electoral legislation and the conduct of the elections. At the end of October 2007, the Russian authorities invited observers from a variety of international organizations to observe the Duma election.

The Russian invitation included 70 observers from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). On 16 November 2007 the ODIHR issued a press release stating that its director had written to the Russian CEC stating that said that "due to delays and restrictions, ODIHR would be unable to deliver its mandate," and in particular mentioning denial of entry visas. The same day the CEC issued a statement expressing its regret at the ODIHR's decision, its scepticism that delays in issuing visas had played any role in it, and also reiterating Russia's view that the ODIHR is in need of "fundamental reform".

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE PA) sent a joint observation mission, consisting of over 70 parliamentarians from 28 countries, to monitor the 2007 Duma election. Afterwards, the two bodies issued a preliminary statement noting a number of technical improvements but also criticizing the election code for making it difficult for smaller parties to compete, consistent bias of state-run broadcasters in favour of United Russia, harassment of opposition parties and what it called the "merging of the state and a political party". The Nordic Council also joined the two bodies in this statement.

On 8 December 2007, CEC member from the Duma, E.I. Koliushin, professor of law, issued a dissenting opinion which was appended to the final protocol of results. In his statement, Professor Koliushin argued that the election had violated both European norms and the Russian constitution because of inter alia, media bias, use of administrative position to benefit one party, improper procedures in tabulating the final results, and failure to examine complaints. The dissenting opinion was posted on the CEC web site at http://www.cikrf.ru/elect_duma/results/mnenie.pdf , accessed 11 December 2007.

By contrast, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) observation mission issued a declaration noting a small number of insignificant violations, and also a certain inequality in access to the media, but concluding on the whole that the election was "free", "transparent" and "consistent with the norms of current electoral legislation, and generally recognized principles of democratic elections" .