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Russia presidential election observers skeptical about poll fairness

[JURIST] Election observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) [official website] Monday expressed reservations about the fairness of Russia's weekend presidential election, pointing to media restrictions and alleged polling irregularities that hampered opposition candidates. In a statement [text], PACE said:

this election repeated most of the flaws revealed during the Duma elections of December 2007. They were highlighted as failings by the PACE pre-electoral mission that was in Russia on 7 and 8 February 2008. None of the concerns of the pre-electoral mission were dealt with ahead of the 2 March vote. Candidate registration concerns could not have been accommodated, putting into question the degree of how free the election was. Equal access of the candidates to the media and the public sphere in general has not improved, putting into question the fairness of the election.
PACE characterized the vote as more of a "plebiscite on the last eight years" under Russian President Vladimir Putin, as "the people of Russia voted for the stability and continuity associated with the incumbent President and the candidate promoted by him." PACE nevertheless indicated that Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev [BBC profile] enjoyed a strong mandate for the next four years.

In December 2007, watchdog groups criticized Russia's parliamentary elections as being riddled with corruption and fraud [JURIST report]. In the run-up to Sunday's election, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile] has said that he was disqualified from running in the presidential election [JURIST report] for political reasons. BBC News has more. RIA Novosti has additional coverage.

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