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STRASBOURG, April 23 (Itar-Tass) —— There was a “clear winner” in the presidential elections in Russia, held on March 4, but the electoral process lacked broad trust among citizens, Tini Kox, the head of the PACE electoral missions, said at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Monday, April 23.
“The presidential elections in Russia, which were observed by representatives from this Assembly, had a clear winner, but the electoral process lacked broad trust among citizens,” he said.
“According to some opinion polls, almost half the voters did not consider the elections to be fair, although the majority are now more or less satisfied with the result. Most parties accept the outcome, except for the Communist Party and some other parliamentary parties. Many of the interlocutors we met suspected there was substantial manipulation of votes,” Kox said.
On the negative side of the process, he named “the abuse of administrative resources and biased media coverage in favour of one candidate should be mentioned”.
On the positive side, he mentioned “improved media access, more political debate, broad respect for the freedom of assembly and more transparency on election day through webcams, transparent ballot boxes, more electronic voting machines and more active domestic observers than ever”.
He believes it is important that the Central Election Commission recognises that a considerable number of polling stations did not follow the protocol properly during the counting of votes.
At the same time, Kox said Russia needs structural reform of the election commissions at all levels. “Without a truly impartial referee, any election result can and probably will be questioned. Russia is now changing its electoral legislation quickly. That sends an important signal to us all. A new law to modify and simplify the registration of political parties has already come into force, and a draft law to improve the function of the election commissions is being prepared,” he said.
He noted particularly President Dmitry Medvedev’s proposals that include measures for the modification and simplification of the rules on candidates in presidential elections, for the direct elections of governors and for the creation of an independent broadcast channel. Implementation of the recommendations of the Venice Commission would also improve the electoral process.
“Only if the reforms become substantial and sustainable and only if they are developed through a serious dialogue including political parties and civil society will they lead to free and fair elections in the Russian Federation in future,” he stressed.