Russia cuts number of vote monitors

November 10, 2007|By Kim Murphy

MOSCOW -- Russia has sharply reduced the number of European monitors permitted to observe upcoming parliament elections and has imposed restrictions that may impede the ability of opposition parties to run successful campaigns, one of Europe's main monitoring delegations said yesterday.

An assessment before the Dec. 2 vote by a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe raises questions about whether political opponents can counter the government of President Vladimir V. Putin and its pervasive control over parliament and the electronic media.

The delegation pointed to concerns that new election laws adopted in 2005 raise the threshold for opposition parties seeking to enter the parliament too high.

The law requires parties to win at least 7 percent of the total vote, collect signatures in at least 20 regions of the country, and prohibits electoral coalitions, standards significantly higher than those in most other European nations.

And while election laws provide for equal media access for all parties, Putin's ruling party effectively dominates the airwaves, "which puts the opposition parties at a disfavor," the delegation said in a statement.

Kim Murphy writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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