Preliminary Statement on the Russian Federation Duma Elections

Today, the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to observe the Russian Federation Duma Elections presented its preliminary findings in a press conference in Moscow.

In its overall conclusions the mission found, that

Despite the lack of a level playing field during the Russian State Duma elections, voters took advantage of their right to express their choice, the international observers concluded in a statement issued today.The observers noted that the preparations for the elections were technically well-administered across a vast territory, but were marked by a convergence of the state and the governing party, limited political competition and a lack of fairness.

Although seven political parties ran, the prior denial of registration to certain parties had narrowed political competition. The contest was also slanted in favour of the ruling party: the election administration lacked independence, most media were partial and state authorities interfered unduly at different levels. The observers also noted that the legal framework had been improved in some respects and televised debates for all parties provided one level platform for contestants.

On election day, voting was well organized overall, but the quality of the process deteriorated considerably during the count, which was characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulations, including serious indications of ballot box stuffing.

In this election the mission also for the first time observed the use of new voting technologies in the Russian Federation, as across the country, ballot scanners were used in 4,800 polling stations and 326 polling stations were equipped with touch screen electronic voting systems.

Voting using electronic touch screen machines was well organized overall and was carried out without technical problems. It was, however, observed that most voters needed help when casting their votes. A number of observer teams reported problems with the secrecy of the vote related to the use of ballot scanning machines.

Touch screen voting machines were equipped with an embedded printer giving voters the possibility to verify their vote whilst voting. Although this enhanced the verifiability of the process, the fact that votes were printed consecutively on one strip of paper created the potential for the violation of the secrecy of the vote.

PEC members in most of the regions observed received training on the use of new voting technologies. The practice of publicly testing both systems on or immediately prior to election day can potentially help build trust in e-enabled voting. However, the absence of provisions for random mandatory manual recounts of the processed ballots is of concern.

In addition, transparency in the design and functioning of both systems is insufficient as both types of technologies are based on proprietary software not open to public scrutiny.

Find the full statement here. A full report is to be expected in two months time after the end of electoral cycle.