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OSCE praises 'efficiently' administered polls, but says election 'overly controlled'

The Russian presidential election was administered efficiently, but restrictions on a number of freedoms "limited the space for competition"

MOSCOW, March 19. /TASS/. The Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) administered the March 18 presidential election ‘efficiently and openly,’ though the legal and political environment was ‘overly controlled,’ the head of the OSCE ODIHR election observation mission, Jan Petersen, said on Monday.

The Central Election Commission "has administered the elections efficiently and openly," he said. However, he reiterated the general conclusion of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Security Agency that the election "took place in an overly controlled legal and political environment, marked by continued pressure on critical voices".

He drew attention to other specific features of the election campaign. "The efforts to promote the turnout were more visible than the campaign itself," Jan Petersen said. "And we also included an assessment of the media situation which made it clear that" conditions were not equal for all the players, he added.

The Russian presidential election was administered efficiently, but restrictions on a number of freedoms limited the space for competition, said OSCE Special Co-ordinator Michael Georg Link, reading out a statement from the monitoring mission of the OSCE ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

"Citizens voted in significant numbers, yet restrictions on fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression as well as candidate registration have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition," the OSCE coordinator said.

Russia’s incumbent head of state Vladimir Putin garnered 76.66% of the vote in the March 18 election with 99.84% of the ballots counted, the Central Election Commission said. Director of the Lenin State Farm Pavel Grudinin, nominated by the Communist Party of Russia, is second with 11.80% of the vote, while leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovsky is third with 5.66%. The voter turnout was 67.49%, according to Election Commission’s preliminary data.