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Should Russia Fear Election Monitors?

osce_flags1109.jpgIt’s a pretty good question: why on earth would Russia seek to ban, limit or otherwise obstruct international election monitors if the incumbent party were expected to win a landslide election anyways? Is this just a stubborn demonstration of sovereignty, or is the Kremlin actually afraid that the carefully managed election could be compromised and that the “referendum on Putin’s Plan” might actually fail? Russia Profile asks Stephen Blank, Ethan S. Burger, Eugene Kolesnikov, and Andrei Seregin what they think of that question. We all know what kind of outfit Russia Profile is (just take a look at the Lugovoi banner ads for government-sponsored Russia Today), but I include Burger’s response below for those interested.

From Russia Profile:

Ethan S. Burger, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center, & Scholar-in-Residence, School of International Service, American University, Washington D.C.The Russian political leadership is doing itself a disservice by limiting the number of OSCE election observers to 70. Indeed, the decision to have a large number of observers from the CIS member states, few of which can be regarded as paradigms of democracy, makes a statement that is unlikely to be well received in Berlin, Paris, London, Ottawa, Rome and Washington. In the eyes of many informed specialists, such a decision will justifiably de-legitimize the election results.If the Russian authorities had any intent to observe the norms and standards which they agreed to maintain with respect to holding free and fair elections, it would not restrict the number of OSCE election observers to an amount so small that it would be impossible for them to fulfill their mission. If Russia and other OSCE member states do not feel that ODIHR is properly performing its function, they should become more active in the organization to influence the process for both determining the qualifications of observers and the conduct of their activities.As a result of the Russian government’s decision, any reports of fraud or other irregularities will be treated by foreign governments as credible. This lack of openness may have the undesired consequence of leading countries to question the legitimacy of Russia’s legislators. It is a bad precedent to establish, and hopefully it will not be repeated in the 2008 presidential election. In carrying out this policy, Russia is taking one additional step away from being regarded as a country capable of being integrated into international organizations. This is not a good development.