On March 18th the Russian presidential elections were held and without a big surprise candidate, Vladimir Putin won his fourth term in the office – 6 more years in Russia’s president’s seat. This report summarizes the observed during Russia’s presidential election period.

The turnout

Kremlin has been experiencing lower levels of turnout since the presidential elections in 1991; therefore, there has been put more efforts to promote the citizens to turnout for the elections. The state’s goal was to reach 70% turnout which in truth wasn’t that successful – 67.5% in 2018. Even the new “absentee voting” system which meant that on the Election Day people were allowed to vote in the station where they were located in that day, but before confirming that with the authorities. Although, this system was not perfect because there were reported repeat voting.

Lack of political competition

According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Russia’s Central Election Commission had rejected 17 prospective candidates.“Yet restrictions on the fundamental freedoms, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition, the statement says.”

The state supported and more importantly owned television is the main mean of the political information. It was reported by the observers that even though the newly elected president didn’t see the need to participate in political debates and campaigns, he and his activities were one of the main actors in the news – it was not possible to not notice his presence in the media. Above that, let’s not forget that there are limitations for freedom of speech in the media and censorship is not dead but still evident in Russia.

Ballot stuffing

We cannot ignore the ballot stuffing during the elections. The video’s which were circulating all around the social media were impossible to ignore by even the most uninterested people in Russia’s elections. As it was reported by the OSCE the officials had to annul some of the ballots at the Dagestan voting stations from where the ballot stuffing video was recorded. However, there is a high possibility that similar ballot stuffing activities were happening in other stations because the election observers were only present in the biggest city regional centers.

Ambassador Jan Petersen, Head of the election observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights characterized the political environment of the last Sunday’s elections in the following way: “Persistent pressure on civil society, the absence of critical reporting in most media, and concerted efforts to increase turnout characterized the political environment of this election. Election day was administered generally well, despite some irregularities.”

This report is based on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published report: “Russian presidential election well administered, but characterized by restrictions on fundamental freedoms, lack of genuine competition, international observers say”.

The EIDP is planning to organize Election Observation Missions in year 2018/2019. Make sure you follow us on Facebook for updates on Call for Participants.