Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says the December 4 elections for the Russian state Duma were not fair.
The OSCE office added that the authorities had meddled in the election process on all levels. "The contest was also slanted in favor of the ruling party. This was evidenced by the lack of independence of the election administration, the partiality of most media, and the undue interference of state authorities at different levels. This did not provide the necessary conditions for fair electoral competition," the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said in a report.
The quality of the process deteriorated considerably during the count, which was characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation, including several serious indications of ballot box stuffing, it is added in the report.
Throughout the election day, observers also reported a number of instances of obstruction to their activities, in particular during the count and tabulation, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights stressed.
Justice Ministry's denial to register a number of political parties reduced the choices available to voters, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights added.
Election Monitoring NGO Golos has assessed that the observers' conclusions were "just". "I agree with the Office's conclusions. The main problem is a lack of normal competition and an enormous administrative resource that was used," said Golos Head Lilya Shibanova.
The Central Election Commission has criticized the report, claiming it was "political". "I cannot agree with such an assessment. It's a political assessment. We saw that all of the registered parties took part in the campaign. We saw that the competition was rather tough," said a Central Election Commission member in charge of international cooperation and observers.
Russian Federation Chief Prosecutor Yuri Chaika has said that the money used to organize the opposition protests over the allegedly rigged elections mostly comes from abroad.
"We live in a democratic country and every citizen has the right to express their position. But everything needs to be done strictly in accordance with the law. It is unacceptable that individuals are using people as means to achieve their own political goals and they usually get the money from sources outside Russia," he told daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
He pointed out that "there indeed were some violations of the law during the elections" and that the Prosecution and the investigative bodies had verified the facts. "I assure you that a legal solution will be found in every such case," the Russian prosecutor pointed out.