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‘Not Free, Not Fair, But Accurate All the Same’

March 7, 2008

‘Not Free, Not Fair, But Accurate All the Same’

By Nabi Abdullaev and Francesca Mereu
Staff Writers

The Moscow Times 

Mikhail Metzel / AP

Andreas Gross

Sunday’s presidential election was neither free nor fair, though the victory of Kremlin-backed candidate Dmitry Medvedev largely reflected the will of the voters, European and independent Russian election monitors said Monday.

Andreas Gross, head of the 22-member observer mission from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told a news conference in Moscow that election officials had ignored the organization’s suggestions to improve the fairness of the election.

PACE observers conceded, however, that Medvedev, who officially won with 70.2 percent of the vote, would have been elected in any case.

“The president-elect will have a solid mandate,” the mission said in a statement.

Gross described the election as a “plebiscite” and “a vote of confidence in the incumbent president,” but not a step toward democracy.

But “we should not impose our concept of democracy, our views on anyone,” Gross added.

Gross cited cumbersome registration rules for candidates and slanted media coverage as significant grounds to conclude that the election was neither free nor fair. He also called for increased transparency in campaign financing.

Central Elections Commission chief Vladimir Churov reacted indignantly to the PACE mission’s recommendation to promote more transparency during the vote-counting process.

“What else should I do? Should I have elections commission members strip naked?” Churov said in televised comments.

The claim in the PACE statement that Russia’s “democratic potential” was not tapped in the election was insulting to Russian voters and election officials, Churov said.

“Raising doubts over the fairness of the election results is an insult to millions of organizers and participants,” he said.

 Read the rest…

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