'Frequent violations' in Russia vote: OSCE observers
Russia's parliamentary polls won by the ruling party were marred by frequent procedural violations including ballot stuffing, international observers led by the OSCE said on Monday.
Sunday's polls "were characterised by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation, including serious indications of ballot box stuffing," the security body said after observing 115 polling stations.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party United Russia won the polls with a much reduced majority, after the opposition reported mass violations and crackdowns on independent media and election monitors.
But the observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) missions and the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly said the elections were characterised by a "lack of level playing field".
"The contest was also slanted in favour of the ruling party, the election administration lacked independence, most media were partial and state authorities interfered unduly at different levels," they said.
They noted that while seven political parties ran in the election, the prior denial of registration to certain opposition parties "had narrowed political competition."
"These elections were like a game in which only some players are allowed on the pitch, and then the field is tilted in favour of one of the players," said Heidi Tagliavini, the head of the election observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
© 2011 AFP