Politically biased election observation in Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics
As the holding of “general elections” in the internationally non-recognised Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) ran counter to the Minsk agreements, the international community considered them as illegitimate and did not send any observers to monitor them.
Aiming to fill the void of legitimacy, the “authorities” of the DPR and LPR claimed to have invited 48 and 45 “international observers” respectively from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Kongo, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Syria, Turkey, USA and Yemen, as well as from “Abkhazia”, “Palestine” and “South Ossetia”.
We have identified 38 “observers” in the case of the DPR and 43 – in the case of the LPR. Out of the identified individuals, around half of them were politicians and state officials. Other “observers” were predominantly businessmen, students, journalists, and far-right and far-left activists and conspiracy theorists. None of the observers were transparent about the methodology they employed for observing the election processes and, therefore, did not comply with the “Code of Conduct for international Election Observers” endorsed by all relevant international election observation organisations, including ODIHR/OSCE.
The overwhelming majority of non-Russian “international observers” have already been involved in various pro-Kremlin efforts that include, but are not limited to: (1) previous participation in politically biased and/or illegitimate electoral monitoring missions in Russia and elsewhere; (2) legitimisation and justification of Russia’s actions directed at undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity; (3) criticism of the sanctions imposed on Russia in relation to its aggression towards Ukraine; (4) cooperation with the Russian state-controlled instruments of disinformation and propaganda (RT, Sputnik); (5) membership in pro-Kremlin movements, groups and organisations.
“International observers” were highly visible in the media space of the DPR and LPR: more than one-third of all news stories published on the voting day mentioned “international observers”.
“International observers” were invited to the DPR and LPR in order to provide a sense of general legitimacy and normalcy to the “elections” in the eyes of the domestic and Russian audiences.
Aiming to provide legitimacy to the otherwise illegitimate “elections”, the media of the DPR, LPR and Russia disinformed their audiences about the real international perception of the “general elections”, as well as promoting the following five major narratives: (1) the “elections” did not run counter to the Minsk agreements, and, therefore, were legitimate; (2) the “elections” were characterised by a high turnout and active participation; (3) the “elections” took place in a calm and orderly manner; (4) the life in the DPR and LPR is safe and peaceful; and (5) the international community should recognise the “elections”, as well as independence and sovereignty of the DPR and LPR.
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