Tiny Kox in Russia: preparations in Moscow

2 March 2012

Tiny Kox in Russia: preparations in Moscow

On Sunday 4th March Russia elects a new president. International observers are in the country to look into the degree to which the elections are free and fair. SP Senator Tiny Kox is head of the Council of Europe observers’ team and will report each day.

Day 2: Preparations in Moscow

First meeting on this busy day was with the 30-strong Council of Europe delegation, which has in the last few hours descended on Moscow from every corner of the continent – from Serbia, Turkey, Ireland, Ukraine, Estonia, Sweden, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, the UK and many other countries, all of them members of the Council of Europe and thus involved in obzserving elections in other member states. Everyone is told where they will be on election day – in Moscow, in Saint Petersburg, but also in the south, north and even the far east of this immense country.
Before we set off, we speak with the president of the Central Electoral Council, who is charged with supervising the elections and who has come under heavy criticism, including from ourselves. He admits that he has drawn lessons from my earlier report, or parts of it at least, explaining what has been improved since the parliamentary elections: webcams in all polling stations, transparent ballot boxes, better protocols. Many polling station managers have been changed since December, despite which complaints continue to come in, in particular from the opposition parties. Too much attention to the Prime Minister in the daily news, problems with the organisation of meetings and visits, especially in outlying regions, and so on. If it was up to the Central Election Council president, many of the unnecessarily complicated rules would be abolished. It remains to be seen what will happen, but in comparison to the curt reception in November, he’s at least friendly. You have to start somewhere. After a short tour of the headquarters from where he will announce all of Sunday’s results, I take my leave.

In the course of the day we are visited by the candidates for the presidency or, if the candidate himself is out campaigning, his representative. We don’t hear much that’s new. Everyone is going for a fair election, everyone is afraid that despite this a great deal will go wrong. Yes, a lot has changed sunce last December. But no, guarantees of fair elections on 4th March cannot be given. Everyone is curious to see what will and won’t happen. On election day, but also in the days which follow it.

Vladimir Putin doesn’t appear. Still too busy. I meet with the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Duma, the Russian Parliament. He will at least attempt to ensure that a representative of the Prime Minister is available to speak with us. Fine, I say – but that’s your problem. We’ll speak to everyone who wants to speak to us. And if someone doesn’t appear, that’s okay too. We’ll report it at Monday’s press conference.
In the evening I speak with the representative of the British Presidency of the Council of Europe, a rotating position which the British will hold until May, giving them prime responsibility for the organisation’s operation, which means that they are interested in what’s happening in its biggest member state.

Lastly I talk to a number of prominent Russians who give me their view of recent developments, off the record. This is also useful, and I pay close attention. It can all help us to come to a well-informed conclusion.

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