[JURIST] The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) [official website] issued preliminary findings [text, PDF; press release] on Sunday stating that the Russian election was "characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation." The report noted that the vote count was assessed was "bad or very bad" in 34 of 115 observed polling stations, voting counts were interrupted and taken out of the view of monitors, there were indications of ballot stuffing in 17 polling stations, vote counting errors were noted in 35 polling stations and in several instances election observers were not shown marked ballots of expelled from the polling station during the counting process. The US State Department [official website] called for an investigation [press conference, video; transcript] into the allegations of election fraud and expressed concern over "harassment" [NYT report] of election monitoring groups, such as Golos [advocacy website]. In addition to evidence of ballot stuffing found by OSCE, there have also been indications of other voting fraud [The Observers report] including erasable ink pens being given to voters, ballots being falsified, "carousel" voting where one individual votes at multiple polling centers and unsealed ballot boxes. Despite the alleged voting fraud, the ruling United Russia [party website, in Russian] party of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] lost 77 seats in the State Duma [official website, in Russian], Russia's parliament, barely maintaining its majority.
There were allegations of voting fraud in both the 2007 and 2008 Russia elections as well. In 2008 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) [official website] expressed concerns [JURIST report] about Russia's presidential elections due to alleged media restrictions and polling irregularities. In 2007 election monitoring groups Transparency International [advocacy website] and Golos stated that Russia's parliamentary elections were rife with fraud and corruption [JURIST report]. Election observers from PACE and OSCE said the parliamentary elections were "not held on a level playing field" [JURIST report] due to strong media bias towards 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. They also called Putin's merging of the state with the United Russia party an abuse of power.