Monday, December 08, 2003

No Wonder They're Friends ...
Russian Elections Reflect A Bush-Like Democracy

President Vladimir V. Putin today described as "free, honest, open and democratic" the parliamentary elections here that international observers criticized only moments later as a step backward in Russia's democratic transition.

United Russia, the party defined almost entirely by its fealty to Mr. Putin, swept to overwhelming victory on Sunday after benefiting, the observers said, from fawning coverage on state television and official support at all levels of government.

Riding Mr. Putin's popularity, United Russia crushed the Communist Party and ousted all but a handful of liberal democrats from the parliament, capturing the most votes of any party in any election since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

With the support of two nationalist parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and Motherland, deputies loyal to the Kremlin are projected to hold nearly two-thirds of the parliament's 450 seats, cementing Mr. Putin's political dominance as he begins his campaign for a second term next March.

Two groups that sent election observers, the Council of Europe and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, said in a report that the results also reflected "the extensive use of the state apparatus and media favoritism to benefit the largest pro-presidential party."

The report, based on the findings of 500 observers, offered some of the harshest European criticism yet of Russian elections, saying the vote called into question "Russia's willingness to move towards European Standards for democratic elections."

The president of the organization's parliamentary assembly, Bruce George, said at a news conference that the vote on Sunday represented a "regression in the democratization process" in Russia. He also cited "blatant fraud" in the vote in the republic of Bashkortostan and "irregularities" in Siberia and the Far East.

In Washington, the White House voiced concerns, though mildly.


Post a Comment

<< Home