On December 2, an estimated 100 million Russian voters are
expected to elect 450 deputies to the State Duma, the Russian
Federal Assembly's lower house. Unlike every parliamentary election
since 1993, all the deputies will be chosen from the party lists
compiled by the leaders of 11 parties formally registered to run in
the election. The 450 seats will be distributed on a proportional
basis among parties that receive at least 7 percent of the vote.
In Russia, parliament is seriously circumscribed by presidential
rule. The Duma is almost completely subservient to the incumbent
regime, rubber stamping laws initiated by the Kremlin. At the same
time, parliamentary elections are important to the Kremlin, because
they retain some semblance of an enduring democratic institution in
Russia and indicate that the country belongs to a civilized
democratic community. Yet, Russia's electoral process is entrenched
in corruption, and the government has curtailed observation by
Now that President Putin has agreed to lead the pro-government
United Russia ticket, the upcoming elections look like a referendum
on the credibility of the President and his Cabinet. Since victory
is a forgone conclusion, the regime will undoubtedly use the
election results as a justification to keep Putin in power.
Although Putin is required by the Constitution to step down in
early 2008, a resounding victory by United Russia will give him a
mandate to promote his protégé to the presidency.
While it should avoid choosing sides in the election, the United
States must send the Kremlin a clear message that the integrity of
Russia's democratic process will largely determine the direction of
its development and the future U.S.-Russian relations.
Peculiarities of Existing Electoral Law and
To Russians, parliamentary elections are not as critical as the
presidential election. This is a result of many factors, including
the Russian Constitution, a feeble civil society, a weak system of
checks and balances, dramatic strengthening of the executive branch
under President Vladimir Putin, and the Kremlin's control over
In contrast to the four preceding State Duma elections, the
upcoming parliamentary vote will see the electorate's choices
significantly restricted. Amendments to the election law have
eliminated individual candidates for majority (single mandate)
districts. The electoral threshold for political parties was
increased from 5 percent to 7 percent, effectively denying
representation to supporters of the center-right Union of Right
Forces and liberal-left Yabloko. In addition, the mandated minimum
voter turnout required for a valid election was abolished.
Political parties face tough registration requirements designed by
the Justice Ministry and the Central Elections Commission. A
Putin-approved law from July 2000 raised the minimum nationwide
membership for registered political parties from 10,000 to 50,000;
the threshold was just 100 in the mid-1990s. These regulations
implicitly favor the parties that toe the Kremlin line, as the
authorities tended to turn a blind eye to their manipulations by
strong parties. At the same time, the parties critical of the
regime, like the Republican Party, headed by independent State Duma
deputies Vladimir Ryzhkov and Vladimir Lysenko, were denied
registration and are now defending their rights in the European
Court of Human Rights.
Still, 11 parties have been registered for the elections: the
Agrarian Party of Russia, Civil Force, the Democratic Party of
Russia, the Communist Party (KPRF), the Union of Right Forces
(SPS), the Party of Social Justice, the Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia (LDPR), A Just Russia, Patriots of Russia, United Russia,
and Yabloko. Only two to four of them are likely to win seats in
the Duma: United Russia, the Communist Party, Just Russia, and
Ultimately, the key campaign issues are popular support for
Putin and the living standard of the population. Putin and his
United Russia are parading the following achievements before the
public: high economic growth rates (an average of 6.5 percent for
2000-2007, with 6.7 percent in 2006); a wage surge (13.4 percent in
2006); a pension hike (21 percent in 2007); a spike in
appropriations for social services, primarily for education,
healthcare, housing, and the depressive agricultural sector; and a
rise in defense allocation.
At the same time, the opposition-both on the right and the left
flanks-is also in possession of serious trump cards. Inflation has
climbed 10 percent this year and eats up the better part of
increased incomes. Reforms related to pensions, self-government,
and municipal issues fell flat; privatization was aborted.
Administrative reforms ended in failure. The government has stepped up
its crackdown on business.
The social apathy of the better part of Russia's voters is
another peculiarity of the present campaign. Most voters do not
believe the elections will affect their lives. Polls show that
nearly half the population is sure that most Duma deputies
discharge their duties poorly or very poorly. The State Duma's
approval rating is one of the lowest for Russian government and
public policy institutions. Poor ratings for live election debates
on government-run television channels further reveal the lack of
public interest in the Duma and its deputies.
United Russia as Clear Frontrunner
According to most forecasts, United Russia is likely to win a
hands-down victory in the upcoming election. The fact that its
federal ticket includes President Putin has dramatically boosted
United Russia is a major league bureaucratic party that was
designed for Russia's officialdom in the image and likeness of the
former Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Membership in the party
is mandatory for rising to key government positions. Significantly,
"in 62 of the 83 regions, it named the governors to head its party
lists." It is common knowledge, though, that none
of these governors has any intention of stepping down and working
in the Duma. Upon getting elected, they will simply give up their
Duma seats to candidates ranked next to them on the party lists.
Their role is that of an engine to promote United Russia's
The Party of Millionaires
Under the electoral code, every State Duma aspirant must declare
his or her income and holdings. United Russia candidates' incomes,
at least by Russian standards, are significantly higher than those
of most other parties. President Putin's 2006 annual income of
$80,000 ranks among United Russia's lowest. Then again, Samara
Provincial Governor Vladimir Artyakov earned $57 million last year;
Duma deputy Vladislav Reznik made $47 million; another deputy,
Vladimir Gruzdev, made $38 million. Putin is presented as being
much poorer than most provincial governors, whose annual incomes
are significantly higher than $1 million. These incomes are substantial
by Russian standards; Russia's average monthly salary of $600 is
comparable with the U.S. poverty line.
United Russia's structural and status criteria are not the only
parameters likening it to the extinct Communist Party of the Soviet
Union. Communist traditions are clearly visible in its campaign
drive. United Russia's campaign platform, named "Putin Plan is the
People's Plan," echoes Communist slogans that go back 30 to 40
years. At its party congress, United Russia nominated
Putin-unopposed and accompanied by sycophancy and glorification-as
the lone candidate to lead its federal ticket. The entire procedure
was reminiscent of the Brezhnev era.
Why is United Russia enjoying such high approval ratings? Apart
from Putin's personal popularity, the Russians tend to share a
deep-seated belief that the powers that be are better geared for
combating the nation's problems than those who wield no power. As
with the previous elections, United Russia has access to
"administrative resources," including government-controlled
television and the willingness of provincial governors to boost the
party's candidates." Local control over campaigns is also
crucial. As Joseph Stalin used to say, "It's not the people who
vote that count. It's the people who count the votes."
In regions with largely non-Russian ethnic populations and
strong clan traditions-such as the North Caucasus and Western
Urals-the fact that local leaders run for parliament on United
Russia's regional ticket serves as a voting model for the rest of
the local populace. In such provinces, the number of votes cast for
"the party of power" is normally significantly higher than the
United Russia's candidate list contains quite a few popular
Russian personalities. Apart from Putin, it includes Moscow Mayor
Yuri Luzhkov; Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu;
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiyev; and prominent athletes,
scholars, and entertainers. Loyalty to Putin is their common
feature. The other trend is connection to business: "…an
analysis of United Russia's party list shows that at least 72 of
the 600 candidates, or 12 percent, have direct links to large or
medium-size businesses. Many of the candidates occupy high posts on
the lists, indicating that they have good chances to win Duma
United Russia is raising its election campaign to the level of
the absurd. One poster at a university attributes the maxim
"knowledge is power" to United Russia instead of English
philosopher Francis Bacon.
As the party in power, United Russia is vulnerable to the
opposition's stinging criticisms about the problems and
difficulties facing Russia's populace, including low living
standards and high inflation rates. United Russia's leadership
renounced participation in the televised public debate with the
other parties, invoking the law they had helped push through the
Duma that allows them to do so. This development is seriously
undermining the other parties' chances to build their campaign
platform on polemicizing with United Russia.
The election campaign of State Duma deputies is picking up
steam. Thus far, United Russia's leadership appears undisputed, but
things within its ranks are not as smooth as its leaders claim. In
early November, debates took place among United Russia's three
factions-"socially oriented," "liberal," and
"conservative-patriotic"-that exposed the party of power as an
artificial conglomeration of politicians holding diverse stances.
The one thing they have in common is a hankering after power at any
Unlike the social faction that openly holds populist
social-democratic views and the "conservative-patriotic" platform
that is virtually ultra-nationalist, the liberal faction largely
embraces the principles of a free-market economy. Admittedly, such
showy pluralism can be viewed as yet another PR campaign to win
over voters leaning toward other parties. But that political
promiscuity could also hurt United Russia; the majority of United
Russia voters with socialist leanings are hardly prepared to vote
for its liberal faction.
There are other factors likely to complicate United Russia's
march to power. With every poll showing United Russia as the
unconditional frontrunner, a lot of voters could well fail to turn
out for the elections out of complacency. This would raise the ante
for other parties with a more disciplined electorate.
Another controversy emerged surrounding a suggestion by United
Russia's ethnic policy coordinator, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov. He and
another party leader proposed to introduce a "national leader"
status for Vladimir Putin. This initiative brings to mind 19th and
20th century analogies such as the Italian "Il Duce" Benito
Mussolini, Spanish "Caudillo" Francisco Franko, let alone the
German example of the "Fuehrer."
Tellingly, United Russia's leaders did not find Sultygov's idea
entirely unacceptable. They wholeheartedly subscribe to its
purpose-keeping Putin in power in some capacity in the aftermath of
the parliamentary and presidential elections. It was the suggested
method of ensuring Putin's ascendancy-through signing a national
"civil pact" and a nationwide oath of allegiance to Putin-that came
under fire from United Russia's leadership and was disavowed by a
Putin spokesman. However, the "national leader" proposal
is far from discarded from the political playing field.
Communists Always Second Best
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation is the most
belligerent opponent of the Putin regime. Its opposition, however,
is mostly verbal. Longtime Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov had
the following to say about the nation's present leadership:
"Today the country is ruled by bandits, oligarchs, and
bureaucrats who-like a malignant tumor-are sucking our nation dry.
We are facing up to the course pursued by Putin and his government.
We deem this socio-economic policy totally ineffective."
In reality, however, the Communist leaders are fully integrated
into the regime. For the most part, they support
government-initiated draft laws in the State Duma.
The Communist electorate is largely made up of senior citizens
nostalgic for the Soviet era, who retain their loyalties to the
Communist ideology. Unlike leftists in Central and Eastern Europe,
Russia's Communist Party failed to develop social democratic
leanings and retains its Leninist-Stalinist stance. It is banking
on the support of portions of the populace who were impoverished in
the course of the market reforms and could not adapt to a new
economic situation. The number of such voters is steadily declining
between elections due to both natural causes and a greater
integration of the Russian population into the market economy.
Hence, the Communist Party electorate is steadily falling.
Communist leaders criticize the Putin regime in bitter terms but
are incapable of proposing anything positive or constructive. Most
of their populist slogans that aim at improving the living
standards of unprotected groups of the Russian population have
found their way into the arsenal of other parties, including United
Russia and even the right-wingers. This is a hitch in the game the
Communists are playing on the social protest field where they used
to be strong.
The Communist Party has an edge over the other parties owing to
the discipline and excellent organization of its electorate. Its
elderly loyalists are used to mandatory voting since the Soviet
era, and their turnout rates are traditionally higher than those of
the other parties. Backed up by activists with more free time on
their hands, the Communist Party can spend fewer campaign
resources. By late October, its campaign fund had $2 million
altogether. In contrast, the campaign funds of the leading parties,
including United Russia, the LDPR, and even the Union of Right
Forces, were more than 10 times higher.
Liberal Democrats in the Running
Vladimir Zhirinovsky's LDPR has a better chance of making it
into the Duma than any other party save United Russia, although it
is not a foregone conclusion. This right-nationalist party is a
kind of one-man band. Its popularity is hanging on the striking and
contradictory personality of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, known for his
nationalist and xenophobic pronouncements. It is no small wonder:
His party's slogan is "good for (ethnic) Russians means good for
Zhirinovsky is no opposition politician, though. LDPR's faction
in the State Duma tends to approve the government's draft laws on
most issues. Zhirinovsky often acts as the Kremlin's mouthpiece to
float the ideas the Kremlin deems attractive but too outrageous for
moderate voters and the outside world.
Given the current high rate of illegal and legal immigration
into Russia from the former Soviet republics and the prevalence of
immigrants in an array of key economic sectors (retail, produce
markets, gambling), Zhirinovsky's nationalist ideas are getting a
rousing response from a large number of ethnic Russians.
Zhirinovsky's stance on international issues is clearly
anti-Western. Addressing the LDPR Congress with a presentation
titled "Global Civil War," Zhirinovsky identified Great Britain as
Russia's arch-enemy. Also quite telling is the choice of the person
placed second on the party's federal ticket. It is Andrei Lugovoy,
a former Federal Security Service officer-turned-businessman, who
is charged in the United Kingdom with the murder of FSB defector
Alexander Litvinenko. The U.K. is seeking his extradition in
conjunction with the case.
LDPR's loyalty to the Kremlin has been generously rewarded.
Today it has the largest electoral fund, and the businessmen making
up the majority of the ticket are the wealthiest. Another advantage
for LDPR is that the Kremlin does not view Zhirinovsky and his
party as United Russia's rival. LDPR's electorate is largely made
up of marginal segments of the population unlikely to ever support
the mainstream United Russia.
Zhirinovsky has always taken advantage of extreme situations to
boost his popularity, but with the current stability in Russia, his
approval rates are sliding and many people are bored with his act.
Thus, it is not a foregone conclusion that LDPR will overcome the 7
Just Russia's Electoral Chances
The Just Russia party, headed by Sergei Mironov, Speaker of the
Federation Council (Parliament's upper house), is the creature of
the Kremlin's "political technologists," who aimed to establish a
two-party system where both parties-formally competitors-would be
completely under the Kremlin's control. The Kremlin looked to have
United Russia represent the right flank and Just Russia the left.
The authorities also intended Just Russia to use its
social-democratic slogans to take votes away from Communists and
possibly come second in the race.
However, the Kremlin seems to have dropped this option. The odds
might have favored Mironov if some other candidate had topped
United Russia's federal ticket. But with Putin's nomination, Just
Russia's plans to become "the second party of power" fell through.
In contrast to three or four months ago, when many politicians and
even some parties joined Just Russia, the reverse is true today.
The party is torn apart by factional strife. Its members are
concerned that whatever chances it had to make it to the Duma have
been seriously jeopardized by Putin's candidacy.
Do Liberals Have a Chance?
The Union of Right Forces (SPS) and Yabloko are the only parties
running for the Duma that represent opposition to the Kremlin.
Neither party counts on the Kremlin's support, although some of
their leaders are laboring under the delusion that assistance from
on high will be forthcoming.
SPS is the most consistent force to defend the principles of
economic freedom, the rule of law, and civil society in Russia. Its
power base is largely represented by the fledgling middle class.
However, it is facing grave internal and external problems. A split
attitude toward the Putin regime has generated two schools of
thought within the party. The first stands for backing Putin on key
issues and offering only tempered criticism; the second favors
bitter criticism of the Putin regime as the basis for drafting
their own platform and electoral tactics.
The Kremlin and United Russia rightfully regard SPS as their
real contender and seek to discredit it. The party's detractors are
aggressively using the fact that Anatoly Chubais, who sides with
SPS, is CEO of the government-controlled energy monopoly Unified
Energy Systems (RAO UES). They charge that the energy monopoly's
resources are being channeled to fund the party campaign. President
Putin also commented on the matter:
It is common knowledge that Anatoly Chubais is one of SPS's
formal and informal leaders. He also heads one of our largest
energy companies. It commands enormous resources, not only
financial but quasi-administrative opportunities to influence
people, because it is represented in every village, town, and
community. It is capable of providing not only moral and
administrative but also financial assistance. I am hopeful that
what they are doing is within the law. I wish I could believe it.
In fact, it is covert support of this "right force"-Union of Right
Forces, as it is called-by the government.
A great many SPS opponents blame spiraling inflation on United
Energy Systems, claiming it is bankrolling the SPS campaign. SPS is
also the target of a smear campaign. Leaflets published on behalf
of SPS and disseminated in some provinces called on AIDS patients
and the HIV-infected to enroll as campaign activists. According to
one of the party's leaders, Leonid Gozman, "The scale and
wastefulness of the implemented actions indicate that the entity
calling the tune is a powerful federal agency rather than a
SPS has recently stepped up its criticism of Vladimir Putin and
United Russia as its electoral campaign pivot. It plans to take
part in the November 24-25 Dissident March organized by the radical
anti-Putin coalition, The Other Russia. SPS Leader Nikita Belykh
announced that SPS subscribes to the march's chief slogan, "For
Retaliation was swift. According to Nikita Belykh,
the Putin-headed 'party of power' declared SPS its arch-enemy.
The bureaucratic machinery fell on SPS with all its force with a
barrage of lies and criticisms. Law enforcers are arresting print
runs of its newspapers in millions of copies, and attacks on its
headquarters are underway. The Interior Ministry has launched
detentions and arrests of innocent people. SPS activists, operators
and Duma candidates are constantly under pressure from every
quarter. The authorities are trying to bribe SPS members with money
and lucrative positions, at the same time threatening to strip them
clean and put in custody, and launching criminal probes. They are
pressured through their friends and relatives. The Kremlin wants
the SPS to abandon the struggle and quit the electoral campaign. It
looks to crush and destroy the party as an independent political
force because it is clearly running scared.
However, SPS radicalization brought about the exodus of some
regional leaders from the party ticket. Be that as it may, the odds
for SPS winning Duma seats are slim.
The same could be said about Yabloko. The party largely unites
an intelligentsia that failed to find its place in the
socio-economic circumstances of post-Communist Russia. In addition,
SPS and Yabloko face competition for liberal votes from the newly
formed Civil Force party, led by well-known lawyer Mikhail
Barshchevsky. Unlike the former two, Civil Force is in the
Kremlin's good graces. Barshchevsky himself holds the prestigious
position of the Russian government's representative at the
Constitutional, Supreme, and Supreme Arbitration Courts.
Some minor parties are also running for the Duma seats. For
example, the Russian Democratic Party's objective is to get Russia
into the European Union and NATO. The party will likely have
difficulty garnering even 1 percent of the popular vote.
For other parties, the chances of winning Duma seats are close
to nil. Nevertheless, the Kremlin-with specific political
objectives in mind-has approved their running for parliament.
First, it seeks to create the semblance of a multi-party system and
political pluralism in order to refute the thesis of a guided
democracy in Russia-a premise very much in evidence in the West.
Second, allowing these parties to run will take away electoral
votes from larger parties that the Kremlin deems undesirable as
Duma members. These are largely left-wing parties. Most of them-the
Agrarian Party (its number two is notorious Communist maverick
Vassily Shandybin), the Party of Social Justice (Alexei
Podberyozkin), and Patriots of Russia (Gennady Semigin)-are led by
former Communist Party allies and contend for the leftist
electorate's votes. Together, they could take away quite a few
votes from the Communists.
Elections Free and Fair?
Most independent Russian and foreign experts are of the opinion
that the elections will be neither free nor fair. Unequal access by
the contending parties to the news media and immoderate tapping
into "administrative resources" will severely restrict the
opportunities for free and fair voting. The pro-government United
Russia and its chief candidate, Vladimir Putin, have an enormous
campaign edge over the other parties.
According to Yelena Panfilova, who heads the Russian office of
anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, "the scope of
the use of the administrative resources this year is a lot larger
than previously." Experts note that with the Duma elections
looming large, preparations for rigging them are in full swing.
This tendency is quite marked in the provinces where participation
by independent observers is limited and the authorities'
arbitrariness knows no bounds.
According to Boris Nemtsov, member of the SPS Political
"The local election commissions are already notified how many
votes United Russia is to receive in every voting precinct - 69
percent in some places, 100 percent in others. Governors are
bending over backwards to ensure the required result because they
are appointed by the President and are well aware of what is at
stake and what to fight for."
The contending parties also have fundraising problems. The
conditions in the country are such that bankrolling opposition
parties is becoming quite dangerous. Businessmen appreciated the
danger of doing so in full measure after former Yukos CEO Mikhail
Khodorkovsky (who has bankrolled several opposition parties) was
arrested (in 2003). Khodorkovsky has received an eight-year
sentence, and a new case against him has been opened.
The Russian authorities are not interested in having large
numbers of independent election observers. The Russian daily
Some 330 to 350 international observers are expected to be in
the country on election day, Central Elections Commission Chairman
Vladimir Churov said. Of these, around 100 will represent the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE], he
According to The Moscow Times, "Churov further said
that excessive numbers of 'so-called foreign observers' during
upcoming State Duma elections would interfere with Russia's
Finally, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights (ODIHR) was compelled to cancel its planned observer mission
for the upcoming Duma vote and accused Moscow of stonewalling
cooperation. Indeed, the Russian authorities did their
best to show OSCE their negative attitude toward its monitoring
activities. After several weeks of waiting for Moscow's
invitations, the OSCE was faced with unprecedented restrictions:
Its mission was reduced nearly six-fold-from 450 at the 2003
elections to 70 for the December 2 elections. Russian entry visas
were continuously delayed for ODIHR applicants. In fact, the
Russian authorities pressured OSCE into canceling its mission by
knowingly creating unacceptable conditions for its work.
Small wonder that the Kremlin slammed ODIHR for derailing
election monitors, blaming confusion at the ODIHR and its
leadership's "scornful mode of action." Furthermore, the Russian
Foreign Ministry underscored the timing of the OSCE's decision to
cancel its observer mission, which followed the Head of the ODIHR's
trip to Washington. It was a clear allusion to the U.S. having a
hand in OSCE's decision to suspend the monitor mission.
Most observers are subscribing to the opinion that revoking the
OSCE mission opens up broad opportunities for rigging the elections
and for multiple violations and manipulations. There is no
excluding a similar decision by observer missions of other
international organizations, for example, the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe, although the Russian officials
have promised to increase their numbers. Their non-attendance could
seriously hurt the legitimacy and credibility of the Duma poll as
free and fair.
Around 30 observers will represent the Commonwealth of
Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. These
groups found no fault with dubious elections in other post-Soviet
nations. Another 30 will represent the Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe, Churov said. The Kremlin sent out no
invitations to any observers representing American NGOs, including
the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic
Implications for the United States
The upcoming State Duma elections are unlikely to significantly
affect Russia's domestic and foreign policy. Irrespective of the
election outcome, the Duma will continue to work hand-in-glove with
the Kremlin. Still, these elections are critical from the
perspective of evaluating Russia's standing as a democracy, the
rule of law, and its civil society record. The U.S. government has
leverage to demonstrate its attitudes toward political developments
in Russia and to influence public opinion there.
The U.S. government should do the following:
- Refrain from backing certain parties running for the State Duma
or opposing others. An explicit expression of American preferences
would be counterproductive and could adversely affect Russian
- Carefully monitor the electoral campaign as to its freedom,
fairness, and openness.
- Insist on providing adequate opportunities for international
observers at the elections through bilateral channels and the OSCE
- Assess the fairness of voting and bring concerns to the Russian
- Send Moscow a crystal clear message that free and fair
elections are the cornerstone of any democratic systemThe ways and
means this is translated into Russian reality will inevitably
influence the U.S.-Russia relationship.
- The U.S. Congress should actively develop ties with the new
Duma and engage its members through multiple contacts and exchanges
on political and work levels in order to relay the principles and
content of U.S. policies, and hone new Duma deputies' parliamentary
In most democracies, the electoral process is known but the
results are typically unknown before election day. In Russia,
however, the results are generally known well in advance; it is the
electoral process that remains a mystery from year to year. The
Kremlin's persistent manipulation of the electoral process-ranging
from smear campaigns and denying media access to the opposition, to
United Russia's failure to participate in public debates with other
parties-has demonstrated the increased degradation of democratic
processes in Russia. The number of parties participating in the
December parliamentary elections is not indicative of democratic
growth, rather it is a mere show demonstrating a weak and divided
opposition and the increasing popularity of radical,
ultra-nationalist fringe groups. Russia's electoral system is
entrenched in corruption-controlled and manipulated by
government-friendly oligarchs, former Communist leaders, and
Putin's loyal inner circle-all in the name of profit and power.
Of particular concern are the significant obstacles the Russian
government has imposed on international election observers. With
election-rigging anticipated as a near-certain aspect of the
December elections, the Putin Administration has made every
possible effort to prevent OSCE observers from attending.
Nevertheless, the United States and other democracies countries
must make every possible effort to assess the legitimacy and
fairness of the elections while avoiding openly intervening or
indicating their political preferences. It is the integrity of the
democratic process that will largely determine the direction of
Russia's development and future U.S.-Russian relations.
Yevgeny Volk, Ph.D., is Coordinator of the Moscow Office in
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
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