Last week, voters in Russia went to the polls to elect their president. Swiss politician Margret Kiener Nellen was there to observe the election process for the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) team. She visited 13 polling station in southern Russia and told swissinfo.ch about her experiences.
Kiener Nellen saw people of all ages being drawn to their local polling stations by a “festive atmosphere”, which included food and children’s dancing performances. She said the transparency of the technical election process should not be underestimated. “These elections were more closely monitored than Swiss ones”, she told swissinfo.ch.
This was also Kiener Nellen’s experience. She said that her team was not only tolerated but “welcomed” by the Russian election administrators. She added that there were not only OSCE observers present but that political parties, candidates and non-governmental organisations had also been allowed to send observers.
At every polling stations, two video cameras filmed the election process that was live-streamed at the Central Election Commission (CEC) in Moscow. These videos are freely available on the internet for anyone to watch, according to Kiener Nellen.
She was also present at a local office where some of the votes were being counted. “Suddenly, an Alexei Navalny supporter stood up and announced that his party would file four appeals for violations of international standards in connection with Navalny’s ban from the presidential election,” she said.
Navalny, the main opposition leader, had been banned from the presidential race and subsequently called for an election boycott.
“No real choice”
One OSCE criticism was that there had been no real choice of candidates in last Wednesday’s election. The process had been marked by “continuous pressure against critical voices”, the organisation wrote in a statementExternal link published on Monday. “Choice without real competition is not a real choice”, it stated.
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