Council of Europe urges improvements to Russian electoral system

24 April 2012

Council of Europe urges improvements to Russian electoral system

After two appallingly bad elections, Russia must conduct a rapid and thorough reform of its electoral system. Membership of the Council of Europe means that this biggest of member states has a duty to do so. Unprecedented mass protest in Russia has set the first changes in motion, but only if Russia carries out still further structural reforms will fair elections become possible. These were the conclusions drawn by SP Senator Tiny Kox, Rapporteur on the Russian elections for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, whose report, presented this week in Strasbourg, won support from across Europe for its conclusions and recommendations, including from the Russian parliament, the Duma, itself.

Tiny KoxIn the last six months the SP Senator has been following closely the parliamentary and presidential election campaigns in Russia on behalf of the Council of Europe. In six visits to the country he met with party leaders, presidential candidates, pollsters, protest movements and others who were involved to discuss the country’s conduct of its elections. Earlier this month, he rounded the series of visits off and was told by Duma president Sergey Naryshkin that the Russian parliament was at last prepared to accept his critical conclusions.

In his final report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Kox stated that the there had been no fair elections and that the electoral system must be changed. He takes a positive view of a number of changes already set in motion, however: ‘The tight restrictions on political parties and presidential candidates have been scrapped, the controversial Electoral Council is being reformed, an independent public television broadcaster will be established and regional governors will no longer be appointed but elected. Freedom to demonstrate is now recognised in practice and parliament is beginning to take its work more seriously.’

But there remains a need for a total change in the political culture, he says: ‘Half of the population did not believe the recent elections had been fair. Distrust of the political institutions is enormous. In order to do something about this, all of those with responsibility must prove that change is serious. Only if that happens can Russia fulfil its responsibility as a Council of Europe member to hold fair elections. The Russian people have a right to this and it would represent a major step forward for Russia’s position in Europe.'

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