No international politically-biased “observers” identified during the 2022 Russian regional elections
The 2022 Russian regional elections took place on the so-called “Single Voting Day”, the second Sunday of September, which, in 2022, was on the 11th of September.
Already on the 1st of September 2022, the chair of the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) Ella Pamfilova declared that there would be no international observers to monitor the regional elections because inviting them was not envisaged by the legislation in force. Only Russian federal laws on parliamentary and presidential elections mention and define international observation, which means that there is a legal framework for international monitoring of presidential and parliamentary elections.
While no Russian law forbids international observation of elections below the national level, Russian institutions adhere to a rigid interpretation of the legislation: everything that is not legally explicitly authorised is, therefore, forbidden.
The practice of politically-biased election assessments in Russia
In practice, as our previous reports demonstrate, this rigid interpretation means that Russian authorities do not feel obliged to invite observers from established organisations such as the OSCE ODIHR, who are often critical of the conduct of elections in Russia, and, instead, welcome friendly foreign politicians, journalists, and lobbyists who would reliably praise any electoral process in Russia as democratic, open, free, and fair. To show a degree of consistency, Russian authorities would officially refer to those friendly foreign individuals not as “international observers” but as “international experts”.
This is why Pamfilova, while saying that there would be no international observers at the 2022 regional elections, also noted that “some experts” would go to Russia to see the elections, adding that “foreign experts” were greatly interested in the Russian elections due to the “unprecedented number of innovations in the electoral sphere”.
2022 Regional elections
However, our research, based on monitoring Russian online and social media, did not seem to find any “international experts” engaged by the Russian authorities in 2022 – unlike in previous years. This development can be explained by the following factors, or their particular combination:
- Due to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine, travelling between Western countries, where the majority of “international experts” used to come from, and Russia has now become very complicated, which might have discouraged even friendly “monitors” from travelling to Russia. At the same time, Russian authorities would previously also engage with foreigners residing in Russia – meaning that they would not need to travel to Russia from abroad – but this did not seem to be the case in 2022.
- Additionally, due to the war against Ukraine, Russia’s toxicity has dramatically increased since February 2022, and many foreign politicians may not want to damage their reputation by associating in any way with Russian authorities.
- Prior to the 2022 regional elections in Russia, the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) conducted an awareness campaign aimed at informing the EU’s national parliaments, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and of the OSCE about the risk of European politicians becoming involved in fraudulent international observation coordinated by Russian authorities. The latter themselves referred to the EPDE’s efforts to undermine Moscow’s malign influence operations thus acknowledging the success of the EPDE’s awareness campaign. Such efforts to raise awareness about the harmful practice of politically-biased election observation may have contributed to the inability of the Russian regime to engage members of the international community in white-washing dubious electoral processes.
The EPDE will continue monitoring the practice of politically-biased election observation in the OSCE region. All of our findings and reports may be accessed at www.fakeobservers.org.