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Monitors criticise Russian election

Latest update : 2008-03-03

Western observers criticised Russia's weekend presidential election on Monday as neither free nor fair, but said its outcome broadly reflected the will of the people. France, UK and Germany congratulated Dmitry Medvedev. Romain Goguelin reports.

The day after the victory of Dmitry Medvedev in Russia’s presidential election, international observers of the polls declared that there were many irregularities. The Russian presidential election was not “just” and “free” estimates Andreas Gross, head of the mission sent by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). He added, “This election revisited many of the failures revealed during the legislative elections in December.”


The designated successor of Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev, was elected president of Russia with 70.23% of the vote, according to preliminary results and a quasi-official announcement by the president of the Central Election Commission. In FRANCE 24’s program “Face to Face,” hosted by Gauthier Rybinski, Vitali Dymarski, an editor for the pro-government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, admitted that “all the figures were known in advance.”


“The results of Putin’s party, United Russia, had to be higher than their results in December’s legislative elections, but lower than the numbers Putin received in his last presidential election,” he specified.


The report by PACE, which sent many observers to Russia, also noted that there was a problem concerning the registration of the candidates – liberal opponent and ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was specifically not allowed to get on the ballot. According to Vitali Dymarski, “there was no opposition in this election. All the candidates were part of the system.”

The West congratulates the new Russian president

In spite of the revelations of the European mission, few European countries criticised the results. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President
José Manuel Barroso “congratulated” the president-elect, who takes over on May 7 and is expected to appoint Vladimir Putin as prime minister. The White House also avoided commenting on irregularities noted during the Russian elections.


José Manuel Barroso did not criticise the way in which Dmitry Medvedev was elected. He hopes, above all, to benefit from the new president and re-start relations between the European Union and Russia, somewhat slack since 2006. In particular, he intends to develop a “strategic partnership,” for which negotiations could begin as early as June during the next senior level EU-Russia meeting. 


German Chancellor Angel Merkel has declared she wants “to speak personally” with Dmitry Medvedev “as soon as possible.” She may visit Russia as soon as Saturday. Germany is one of the rare countries, however, to comment on irregularities during the election - just as the Czech Republic regrets “restrictive practises” during the election.


In France, according to a member of Medvedev’s entourage quoted by Interfax news agency, French President Nicolas Sarkozy “cordially congratulated” the Russian president-elect for a “convincing victory.” However, according to an official source at Elysée, Sarkozy invited his Russian counterpart to “visit him in France as soon as he’d like” but that does not mean the congratulations were cordial.


Many arrested in Moscow


Inside Russia, the opposition denounced the elections and, as the results were announced, the Communist Party candidate Guennadi Ziuganov, who came in second place with 17.76% of the vote, committed himself to file a complaint about the fraud.


The election of Dmitry Mevedev is “illegitimate,” affirmed the always-losing opposition leader Garry Kasparov, head of the Other Russia movement. “We do not recognise the legitimacy of the designation of Medvedev” to the post of president, he declared Monday in St. Petersburg during a protest march with over 2,000 people.


In the Russian capital, clashes took place between police and opposition groups who tried to participate in an unauthorised gathering. Many people where questioned, including the Nikita Belykh, head of the liberal SPS party.


In addition, Maxim Reznik, who directs the liberal Iabloko party in St. Petersburg, was stopped Sunday evening. According to police, he was attacking a man on the street.


For Garry Kasparov, “on March 3 begins the fight against the illegitimate regime.”


Date created : 2008-03-03