8. Feb. 2008
PACE pre-election delegation concerned by limited choice in Russian Presidential election
Moscow, 08.02.2008 – A pre-electoral delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), concluding a two-day visit to Moscow, has expressed concern at the prospects for the holding of a good Presidential election in Russia.
At the end of the visit, from 7-8 February 2008, the delegation declared: «An election where candidates are confronted with almost insurmountable difficulties when trying to register risks not qualifying as free. An election where there is not a level playing field for all contestants can hardly be considered as fair.»
«While the forthcoming election may appear competitive to some, with four candidates in the running, the real choice of alternatives is limited at best,» the delegation said. «We are disheartened by the unavailability of one candidate to engage in a televised debate. We believe that public debate offers the electorate a unique opportunity to see the strong and the weak points of presidential hopefuls. Debate is the soul of any election, and a willingness to take part symbolizes the commitment to democratic principles.» «Once again, we are witness to the repetition of the flaws seen in the parliamentary elections held in December 2007. While all concerned receive equal media coverage in principle, the candidate designated as ‘successor’ enjoys all the benefits of office. Try as they might, the other candidates can never have the same coverage on prime-time television.»
The delegation said it regretted the absence of ODIHR observers, who normally ensure the long-term aspect of the observation exercise. «In their absence, the work of our own observers is, as it were, impaired,» the PACE team said. «Finally, the delegation has every reason to believe that the administration of this election will be highly efficient. However, there is much more to a good election than mere election administration.»
The pre-election mission, made up of Andreas Gross (Switzerland, SOC), Nadezhda Mikhaylova (Bulgaria, EPP/CD), Maria Postoico (Moldova, UEL), Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ALDE), and Mevlut Cavusoglu (Turkey, EDG) held exchanges of view with three of the four presidential candidates and the campaign manager of the fourth, as well as with Mr Kasyanov, whose candidacy was refused.
It also met the Chair of the Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov, a representative cross-section of the media and civil society, and members of the diplomatic corps in Moscow. The delegation was in Russia at the invitation of Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov.