Following developments yesterday afternoon, the UK shares the disappointment expressed by ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly that limitations imposed by Russia will prevent the OSCE from providing the Russian voters with a transparent and authoritative assessment of their forthcoming Duma State elections.
Participating States have given ODIHR the mandate to independently observe elections. This includes a mandate to determine what is necessary in terms of size and format of a mission in order to effectively and credibly observe.
ODIHR’s approach to elections is the right one. It starts from the simple premise that there should be continuous improvement in the process of holding democratic elections in all countries, as we all strive to achieve the standards to which we have committed as OSCE participating States. ODIHR’s impartial and objective approach to each country helps improve its electoral processes in a tailored way, which builds on past success and addresses previous failings.
The ODIHR needs assessment mission report of 25 June is the result of methodical and independent work. The Needs Assessment Mission found that interlocutors saw the value of an ODIHR election observation activity for the State Duma elections. These interlocutors also stressed the importance of a long-term and country-wide presence to cover all aspects of the process.
Russia’s decision to severely restrict the number of observers would undermine the effectiveness and credibility of ODIHR’s election observation.
Like ODIHR and the OSCE PA, we respect the challenges that countries are facing in preventing the spread of COVID-19. ODIHR has said they were ready to abide by all entry requirements on operating or moving in the Russian Federation. This is not a case of ODIHR making unreasonable demands: current requirements in place for international visitors in Russia do not seem to prevent the deployment of a full election observation mission.
We will have to draw our own conclusions on why Russia does not want its elections to be monitored by an independent body. The limitation Russia placed on an ODIHR mission is against the interests of the Russian people and anyone who wishes to see democracy protected in Russia.