Russia before the presidential elections
Andreas Schockenhoff and Liliya Shibanova
On 1 March 2012, a few days before the presidential elections, Andreas Schockenhoff invited Liliya Shibanova, founder and director of the non governmental organization GOLOS, which promotes independent election monitoring, to a discussion with experts and members of the press held at the German Bundestag. When Ms Shibanova visited Berlin in December shortly before the Duma elections, no one knew how the situation in Russia would develop. Since then, GOLOS has been increasingly under pressure from Russian authorities (the rental agreement of their office in Moscow was terminated, pressure was put on several regional offices and the newspaper “Civil Voice”). The organization fears the impending closure of its regional offices.
As had been stated in the GOLOS report on long-term monitoring of the presidential and the simultaneous local elections, Ms Shibanova confirmed a series of violations of international election standards, to which Russia had committed itself. She said that the misuse of administrative resources and pressure on opposition forces showed that the goal of the political leadership was still not “to serve society, but rather to steer it”. Above all, she continued, the irregularities during the Duma elections were not investigated. Only in a few individual cases had those responsible been held accountable.
Although there were 30,000 volunteer monitors for the presidential elections, it was impossible, she said, to cover voting in all the polling stations in the different parts of the country. The modern webcams installed by the Central Election Commission in almost all polling stations, even in the Northern Caucasus, did not mean better monitoring of the election, but rather only faster reporting of election results.
Ms Shibanova said that the new “self-organization of the citizens” was the most positive development of the last months. Other initiatives for independent election monitoring have now been started and GOLOS works well with them. She said she expected a “targeted, hard fight” against opposition forces in the country after the election, above all against non governmental organizations that received financial support from the West, as GOLOS did. The first clear signs could already be seen, she continued. GOLOS was increasingly afraid that the authorities were preparing to close down the organization after ten years of work. She went on to say that the draft legislation proposed by president Medvedev reintroducing the direct election of governors and making it easier to register a party would hardly lead to “real reforms”. Ms Shibanova emphasized that it was thus all the more important for the EU to pursue an active policy towards Russia. The EU was an important partner whose political voice carried weight for Russia, much more so than the United States, which is still seen as an “adversary”.
Last updated 06.03.2012