STRASBOURG, November 15 (Itar-Tass) — The Russian authorities and the mission of observers from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at elections to the State Duma have “developed constructive cooperation,” OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier said at a meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. The plenary session of the European Parliament began here on Monday.
Elections to the lower house of Russia’s parliament are scheduled for Sunday, December 4. At the present time, 40 long-term observers from the mission are already working in Russian regions. Another 160 experts will arrive in Russia just before the elections; their duties will include control over the voting process and vote counting.
“There is a real opportunity to study the entire electoral process in accordance with the standards of the organisation,” the OSCE head stated. At this point, he said, “there is no reason for concern over this issue.” “I asked the opinion of the ODIHR head on the prospects for monitoring elections in Russia,” the high-ranking international official said. “He is positively disposed.”
According to Zannier, despite the fact that the Russian side insisted on reducing the number of observers, the ODIHR “will successfully fulfil its task.” “The observers received the invitation on time, the deployment of the mission in the field took place in accordance with existing practice,” the politician said.
Elections to the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia’s bicameral parliament, have been called for 4 December 2011, following a presidential decree on 30 August. Parliamentary elections will be conducted to elect 450 members to the State Duma for a five-year term from federal lists under a proportional representation system. Elections can be contested only by registered political parties; independent candidacies and the formation of electoral blocs are not permitted. To qualify for the allocation of mandates, political parties need to receive at least seven per cent of the valid votes. In addition, political parties receiving between five and six per cent of votes are granted one seat and those between six and seven per cent of votes, two seats. OSCE/ODIHR last observed parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation in 2003. As a participating State of the OSCE, the Russian Federation has committed itself to uphold OSCE’s election commitments and to invite observers from OSCE/ODIHR to assess compliance with these standards, according to an OSCE press release.
Following the official invitation to observe the 4 December State Duma elections and based on the findings of a pre-election assessment visit conducted from 17 to 22 August, OSCE/ODIHR deployed an Election Observation Mission (EOM) for these elections. The Mission officially opened on 26 October. The Mission is headed by Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini and consists of 14 experts based in Moscow drawn from 13 OSCE participating States. Forty long-term observers are expected to be deployed throughout the country by early November.
The mission will assess these elections for compliance with principles for democratic electoral processes, including commitments agreed to by all the OSCE participating States, as well as national legislation. Observers will monitor campaign activities, media coverage, the legislative framework and its implementation, the work of the election administration and relevant government bodies, as well as the resolution of election disputes.
OSCE/ODIHR has requested 160 short-term observers to be deployed immediately prior to election day. The short-term observers will be deployed throughout the country in multinational teams of two to monitor the opening of polling stations, the voting, the counting of ballots, and the tabulation of results.
For election day observation, the OSCE/ODIHR will join efforts with a delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and other parliamentary partners. The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office has appointed Petros Efthymiou, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, as Special Co-ordinator to lead the short-term OSCE observer mission. On the day after the elections, the Mission will issue a statement of preliminary findings and conclusions. A final report on the observation of the entire electoral process will be issued approximately eight weeks after the end of the observation mission.