Czech Foreign Ministry: Russian elections raise ‘doubts’

President Vladimir Putin, photo: CTK

President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party clinched a landslide victory in parliamentary elections held in the Russian Federation on Sunday. In a reaction to the preliminary results, the Czech Foreign Ministry has denounced the elections as not providing a level playing field for all the country’s political forces, and said that doubts remain about their validity. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic’s left-wing parties have also questioned the Russian elections.

President Vladimir Putin, photo: CTK
With 98 percent of the votes counted in elections to the Russian parliament’s lower house, the Yedinaya Rossiya party of President Vladimir Putin is set for a major victory with more than 64 percent of the votes. The electoral campaign as well the election procedure, the Czech Foreign Ministry says, has raised doubts over the validity and the democratic nature of the election. Martin Povejsil is the political director at the Foreign Ministry.

“We are convinced that the elections did not meet the international standards of free and fair electoral process. Russia did not permit independent monitoring of the electoral process by the OSCE. Also, in our opinion the Russian administration used inadequate measures against political opposition forces in Russia prior to the elections. And lastly, political opponents did not have free access to the media. All this bring us to the conclusion that circumstances of the Russian parliamentary elections will cast doubts over the future composition of the Russian parliament.”

Josef Skala is a foreign issues advisor to the Czech Communist Party. While he sees Mr Putin’s party success in the elections as a logical consequence of his economic policies, he also admits that flaws of the democratic character of the Russian elections were obvious.

“It is difficult to distinguish between the real story and the comments by certain media and political forces abroad as well as inside Russia which may have specific purposes and motivations. The very fact that some of the rules of free and fair elections were not followed to the extent which is needed is I think apparent. But to which extent certain methods were used in violation of elementary principles of free and fair elections, is really hard to judge from Prague.”

Opposition Social Democrat MP Jan Hamacek is the head of the Chamber of Deputies’ International Committee.

“I think that it is unfortunate that international observers could not take part in the election procedure. I believe that would remove certain doubts that could now arise, and Russia should have taken that into account.”

Given the recent controversy over a possible positioning of a part of a US-operated missile defence shield in the Czech Republic, what effect will Mr Putin’s victory have on Czech-Russian relations, in Jan Hamacek’s opinion?

“My impression from my last visit to Moscow was that the Czech-Russian relations are good and especially in the economic area are developing very well. These elections should not change anything in terms of the bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation.”