Spies, Lies and the OSCE.
Posted by democratist on March 14, 2012
March 14th 2012,
A few days ago we ran a piece suggesting that there was a high likelihood that the FSB were planning a “provocation” against the OSCE, because the international elections watchdog had been critical in their preliminary report on the presidential elections.
Since then, some additional evidence has come to light that may indeed be the case; one of Democratist’s friends, present during both polls has written to us about their adventures. They made the following points:
- The presidential campaign was unfair because candidates were disqualified on technicalities, the media biased in favour of Putin.
- Many people said they were afraid to demonstrate because they feared negative impact at work.
- The electoral administration was professional, but completely dominated by United Russia, with allegations of bribery.
- There were many more domestic observers in the presidential poll than in the parliamentary; both from parties and NGOs such as GOLOS. This may have reduced the number of irregularities on election day, although there were still plenty of complaints of ballot box stuffing, carousel voting, intimidation of observers and changing the figures on the protocols.
- The counting process lacked transparency; no international observers were allowed entry to the GASvibory room, where the results were entered onto a computer.
- Additionally, in St. Petersburg and Nizhegorodksy, international observers found evidence of so-called “phantom” polling stations; polling stations that proved to be non-existent when investigated (and where Putin received over 90% of the vote).
- The number of NVT (New Voting Technology) automated units in PECs was increased from the Duma polls, and it is believed that Russia is heading towards a system in the future where NVTs will be used in every PEC; this could lead to a number of problems as there will be no physical counting of the ballots.
- There were fewer complaints received at every administrative level than during the Duma elections, but this was probably due to a general lack of confidence in the system, since many legal complaints have “gone missing” since the parliamentary polls.
- Many observers experienced intimidation by individuals claiming to be immigration officers (but probably FSB). These claimed that the observers had problems with their police registration, visa etc. They put it to the observers that they were secretly funding the opposition and training domestic observers. There was evidence that emails and phone calls were intercepted, and that some local staff were working as informants.
- The local press ran stories accusing the international observers of being spies.
Such then, is the welcome provided for the OSCE by the “managed” Russian democracy. But our initial question remains: Were the allegations of espionage just a form of intimidation? Or will the leadership choose to use them as an excuse to ensure that there are no international observers in 2018 (other than those “international observers” who are in fact controlled by the Russians themselves) or as part of wider political manoeuvring?