RUSSIA’s presidential elections were “clearly skewed” in favour of the winner, Vladimir Putin, monitors with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) have said. Read The Daily Star report.
Preliminary results showed that Putin, who is currently prime minister, won more than 63% of votes.
There have been widespread claims of fraud and vote violations, and the OSCE said the result was “never in doubt”.
Opposition groups have called for mass protests against Putin’s win.
In a statement, the OSCE said while all candidates had been able to campaign freely, there had been “serious problems” from the start, conditions were “clearly skewed in favour of one of the contestants, current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin”.
“The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain,” said spokesman Tonino Picula.
“This was not the case in Russia. There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt.”
Earlier Golos, a leading Russian independent election watchdog, said the polls could be “characterised as usual for the last decade of Russian elections – with an insufficient level of competition, state interference in the election process and on several occasions forced voting”.
The organisation said it had received more than 3,000 reports of voting fraud.
“Such elections cannot be called free and fair according to the Russian constitution or international standards,” said executive director Lilya Shibanova.
The group put Putin’s count at just over 50% – far less than the official figure given by the election commission.
But speaking to tens of thousands of supporters in Moscow on Sunday night, an emotional Putin said he had won in an open and honest battle.
“I promised you we would win, and we won – glory to Russia!” he said.
He said his victory, despite large scale anti-government protests in recent months, showed that “no-one can force anything on us”.
Putin moved into the post of prime minister in 2008 because of a constitutional ban on a third consecutive term as president. He will now be in office until 2018 – replacing his close ally Dmitry Medvedev – and could then run for another six-year term.
The election was held against a backdrop of popular discontent, sparked by allegations of widespread fraud during December’s parliamentary elections in favour of Putin’s United Russia party.
The OSCE said that “demands for honest elections by citizens and candidates led to greater civic involvement in observation efforts to enhance the integrity of the process”.
“But the process deteriorated during the vote count which was assessed negatively in almost one-third of polling stations observed due to procedural irregularities.