MOSCOW, August 5./TASS/. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has withdrawn from the monitoring of the upcoming elections to the State Duma lower house of parliament, and its further assessments concerning the September election will hardly deserve attention, Russian Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesman Alexander Bikantov told a briefing on Thursday.
Since the OSCE ODIHR has withdrawn from the monitoring, "further statements, assessments or commentaries from the Office concerning the voting at this election and the election process in general, will hardly be worth noticing or taken into account," said the diplomat. "I am sure that the ODIHR quota will be readily used by other foreign observers," Bikantov added.
The diplomat stressed that Russia’s invitation to foreign partners to take part in monitoring the election had been sent in advance and in full conformity with Russia’s commitments within the framework of the European security agency. Such invitations were also sent to other international organizations and agencies engaged in election monitoring, he stressed.
"The ODIHR is explaining the refusal to send its mission to Russia by the fact that the Office independently determines the parameters of the monitoring" in accordance with its methodology that is not approved by the member states of the organization, de facto ruling out the possibility to coordinate issues with the receiving side, this time with the Russian authorities," he added. The formal reason for ODIHR’s argument was the decision of the Russian authorities to restrict the number of foreign observers amid the coronavirus pandemic. This measure is forced and is objectively connected with the epidemiological situation in Russia and across the world, he stressed.
"We emphasize that this decision is not discriminating against the ODIHR, it concerns absolutely all foreign observers," Bikantov went on to say, adding that of all the international agencies, the ODIHR had the possibility to send the biggest mission.
He said Russia was disappointed by the disregard of the agency to Russia’s efforts to combat the novel coronavirus. "We cannot agree with the reasons of the ODIHR director, implying that the independent and deserving trust monitoring of the elections is linked to the number of the observers," the diplomat stressed. He emphasized that Russia was ready to receive the ODIHR observers in the same number that the mission sent to monitor last year’s US election.
"Russia has repeatedly proposed that the procedures for the formation and work of monitoring missions be clearly spelled out," he said. "As of today, the only coordinated commitment is the invitation of foreign observers to the elections, which Russia fully abides by," Bikantov stressed.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the ODIHR said in a statement on Wednesday that it "will not be able to send observers to the upcoming elections to the Duma due to limitations imposed by Russian Federation authorities on the election observation." "The ability to independently determine the number of observers necessary for us to observe effectively and credibly is essential to all international observation," the statement quoted ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci as saying.
The 8th State Duma elections are scheduled for September 19. The voting will stretch over three days: September 17, 18, and 19. Simultaneously, there will be direct elections for the heads of nine Russian regions (in three others, top executive officials will be elected by local legislatures) and 39 regional parliaments.