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PACE post-election delegation urges Russia’s political parties to embrace change

Moscow, 21.01.2012 – A post-election delegation (1) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), ending a two-day visit to Moscow, has welcomed widespread indications – from across the political spectrum – of the need for political change in Russia, and called for this change to be substantial and sustainable. It should not be a survival mechanism, the delegation said.

The six-member delegation, visiting Moscow on 20 and 21 January, said that Russian voters, whatever their political views, were making increasingly clear their preference for elections that are conducted fairly, and called on the politicians to respond to this need as an urgent priority. Recent mass demonstrations throughout Russia had acted as a wake-up call, it pointed out.

In particular, while recognising the ability of the electoral authorities to overcome major technical challenges in organising elections in such a vast country, it said there was a pressing need for an impartial referee to oversee voting in Russia. Public confidence in the electoral system demanded a major overhaul of the election administration, the delegation said.

The delegation also welcomed possibilities for greater dialogue between the authorities and civil society, as well as evidence of rudimentary political alliances, which it said were encouraging advances in Russia's political culture. It called on Russia's political players to rise to the challenge of serving their country and their people by vigorously debating their differing visions within a robust democratic framework.

In particular, the delegation noted the declared readiness of the ruling United Russia party to remedy at least some of the shortcomings that marred December's Duma elections. In a joint statement, international observers said these had been marked by a convergence of the state and the governing party, limited political competition and a lack of fairness. The delegation expects the authorities to translate these promises into action.

The delegation met the Chair of the Central Election Commission, Vladimir Churov, as well as the leaderships of United Russia, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, A Just Russia, Yabloko and PARNAS, a civil society group that was denied registration as a political party. It also met Russia's human rights ombudsman and representatives of GOLOS and the Moscow Helsinki Group.

The delegation was visiting Russia just ahead of the Assembly's winter plenary session in Strasbourg next week, which is due to debate Russia's parliamentary elections on Monday 23 January. There has also been a request for a separate debate on the topic 'The Russian Federation between two elections'. The Assembly will decide on the first day of the session whether or not to hold this debate.

Contact: Angus Macdonald, PACE Communication Division
Mobiles: +79150765726 or +33 (0)6 30 49 68 20

(1) Members of the delegation: Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL), head of delegation; Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin (Sweden, EPP/CD); Øyvind Vaksdal (Norway, EDG); Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ALDE); György Frunda (Romania, EPP/CD), monitoring co-rapporteur; Andreas Gross (Switzerland, SOC), monitoring co-rapporteur.