FPI Bulletin: Russia Needs a Recount
By FPI Director of Democracy and Human Rights Ellen Bork
Today, Russian authorities declared Sergei Sobyanin the winner of the Moscow mayoral election on September 8. But, Mr. Sobyanin’s vote tally may not have cleared 50%, the threshold necessary to avoid a second round on September 22nd. The government's results put him at 51.4%. That narrow margin and claims of fraud make a recount imperative. There is particular concern about manipulated “home voting” at residences for the elderly and hospitals where voters are vulnerable to coercion. The results of a parallel vote count by independent election monitoring organizations give Mr. Sobyanin 49.4% of the vote. Some 70,000 people rallied in support of a recount September 9.
Russia has an international obligation to hold free and fair elections and specifically to ensure that ballots are “counted and reported honestly with the official results made public." This commitment is undertaken through Russia’s membership in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a multilateral organization to which the United States also belongs. Members of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. State Department should express their concern and expectation that the results of the Moscow mayoral election conform to OSCE standards by calling for a recount.
Much about the election was unfair. The candidate who won the second most votes, the anti-corruption activist, Alexei Navalny, competed under extraordinary pressures and constraints: a looming jail sentence stemming from a politically-motivated prosecution, lack of access to the official media monopoly, and a compressed campaign intended to disadvantage him. His results, 27.2% according to the official tally, exceeded expectations, and have invigorated Russia's opposition.
Mr. Navalny’s supporters are under no illusions that their candidate will take office. Under the current circumstances in Russia, it would be a victory for the votes to be counted fairly.
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