[JURIST] Russia's December parliamentary elections were riddled with corruption and fraud, corruption watchdog Transparency International and Russian human rights group Golos [advocacy websites] said Tuesday. The agencies cited instances of official pressure on voters and suspiciously high turnout figures in a Moscow news conference questioning the integrity of the election. They said that in some instances, election officials were punished or fired if they failed to secure high voter turn-outs in their districts. Witnesses also reported seeing officials stuffing ballot boxes before the polls were opened. Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia [party website, in Russian] party won a landslide victory with more than 64 percent of votes, a result that the Kremlin insists is an honest reflection of Putin's popularity. Reuters has more.
Earlier this month, election observers from the Council of Europe (COE) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [official websites] said the elections were "not held on a level playing field" in a joint statement [text; JURIST report] delivered by OSCE President Gordan Lennmarker. The COE and OSCE noted special concern over a strong media bias [NYT report] in favor of Putin and the United Russia party leading up to the election, widespread reports of harassment of opposition parties, and a new election code that made it more difficult for smaller political parties go gain the seven percent of the vote necessary to serve on the State Duma. Last month, Amnesty International [advocacy website] flagged concerns about repression and rights violations in the run-up to the elections, alleging that the Russian government had interfered with opposition parties' rights of freedom of expression and free assembly [JURIST report].