The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) has been monitoring instances of politically biased international election observation since 2014. Evidence collected by EPDE through the years demonstrates that invitations to participate in politically biased international election observation missions are used by authoritarian regimes or illiberal actors as an entry door to recruit allies in key institutions of European democracies – parliaments, media, thinks-tanks, universities, civil society organisations, etc. While not all participants of such missions continue collaborating with authoritarian regimes, many do and eventually become engaged in networks of malign influence that directly or indirectly subvert and undermine European values and democratic institutions.
Our latest report discusses one particular case, that of a Polish political individual named Janusz Niedźwiecki, to provide a detailed account of how participation in fake election observation leads to engagement in even more malicious activities operated by illiberal actors and/or authoritarian regimes.
Polish national Janusz Niedźwiecki was arrested in Poland earlier this year and charged with collaboration with Russian secret services. In this report, Anton Shekhovtsov traces Niedźwiecki’s transformation from an activist of a marginal and non-registered far-right party into a coordinator of pro-Kremlin activities and, ultimately, into an agent of Moscow’s influence.
This transformation is not unique: a significant number of far-right politicians, especially of anti-American persuasion, engage in pro-Kremlin activities. Moreover, as our previous research shows, the same far-right politicians often take part in fake election observation in support of authoritarian regimes, leaders or political forces, and this participation deepens their ties to Russian politicians, officials and, sometimes, intelligence services. Indeed, it is joining politically biased observation missions that has, for many a European politician, become an entry point into a larger area of Moscow’s malign influence operations and other active measures.