Russian Elections Lack Legitimacy; Meaningful Political Competition Absent

Washington, D.C.


The overwhelming electoral victory of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in yesterday’s parliamentary elections was achieved under patently unfair and non-competitive conditions calling into doubt the result’s legitimacy, Freedom House said today.

The Russian parliamentary elections held on December 2 resulted in a sweeping electoral victory for the United Russia party, which received over 64 percent of votes.  The process leading up to yesterday’s vote was deeply flawed and featured extraordinary controls that prevented opposition parties from competing on a fair footing. Opposition was largely excluded from mass media, freedom of assembly was severely hindered and state administrative resources were used extensively to promote United Russia, according to numerous reports.

“The stark deterioration of political rights in Russia has resulted in a system where no opposition force can play by the rules and compete for political power,” said Freedom House executive director Jennifer Windsor.  “In addition to short-changing ordinary Russians through this rigged process, these zero-sum politics are a prescription for instability.”

In addition to internal controls on opposition voices, restrictions on international election observers meant that there was insufficient scrutiny to monitor the campaign and election process. Most notably, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chose not observe the elections in response to substantial obstacles created by the Russian authorities.  Other international monitoring missions, such as the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which did send missions, declared that the elections were “not fair,” having failed to meet basic democratic standards due to the overwhelming influence of the United Russia party.  Russian opposition members have filed claims of vote rigging, citing suspiciously high voter turn outs in certain regions, and voter intimidation. 

“While we applaud the office of ODIHR for refusing to accept the conditions offered it for monitoring the Russian elections, we are encouraged by the direct and honest assessments of the missions of the Parliamentary Assemblies of both the OSCE and the Council of Europe,” said Freedom House director of advocacy Paula Schriefer.  “Although we recognize that the ability of outside governments to impact the state of democracy in Russia is naturally limited, it is nonetheless critical that the world’s democracies continue to demonstrate their dissatisfaction for an increasingly autocratic regime and, concurrently, their support for those Russians who continue to fight to bring about greater freedom.”

Over the past two years, the Russian government has concentrated power, seized control over all broadcast and most print media, placed increasing restrictions on freedom of assembly, and has stifled all legitimate political opposition.  In the week prior to the elections, opposition candidate Gary Kasparov and other members of his Other Russia party were arrested for participating in an unauthorized march. 

Russia is rated as Not Free in Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World, with a score of 6 (out of a worst 7) for political rights and a 5 for civil liberties. It reached its highest ranking of Partly Free in 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and was downgraded to Not Free in 2005 due to ongoing deteriorations in press freedom, judicial independence, and political competition. 

For more information on Russia, visit:

Freedom in the World 2007: Russia
Nations in Transit 2007: Russia
Freedom of the Press 2007: Russia
 
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in the Russian Federation since its independence in 1991.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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