Notes on OSCE Debriefing/or International Observers Election of the President of the Russian Federation 16 June 1996
International delegations of observers were brought together for the OSCE debriefing held at the French Embassy two days after the presidential election to share their findings based on their individual experiences. Delegates attending the debriefing included observers who had visited polling stations located in diverse areas of the Russian Federation. The OSCE had already processed many of the computerized observation forms submitted by delegates prior to the scheduled debriefing. Based on the input provided in person at the briefing and the data summarized from the observer forms, OSCE intended to draft its formal report of finding.
At the end of the debriefing, Michael Meadowcroft, the OSCE Mission Coordinator, posed a number of summary conclusions for general approval of the delegates present. Based on their general consensus these conclusions would underpin the formal document of findings. In addition to the OSCE's general statement of findings, the report would identify the key areas where there seemed to appear some common themes that were noted by numerous delegates observing in various parts of the federation.
In general, the elections were well run.
There appeared to be no organized attempt to falsify or manipulate the result.
Where infractions were noted, they were not of a magnitude to materially affect the outcome.
The results of the election were an accurate reflection of the popular will.
The 1996 Presidential Election represented a notable improvement over prior elections.
The following reflect the findings of individual delegations relative to specific infractions, activities and incidents they believed warrant continued attention and/or remedy. Those identified here reflect some of the findings that appeared to be common among many delegations.
As a group, delegations identified the unbalanced coverage of the campaign and apparent abuses of the advantages of incumbency as important matters to be addressed.
Disregard for the secrecy of vote demonstrated by communal family voting and marking of ballots outside the secrecy cabins appeared to be a universal problem. While some delegates acknowledged the cultural context, most agreed that secrecy of vote must be mandatory, not optional. Delegates noted that there did not appear to be any evidence of undue pressure being exerted on voters. However, they also agreed that failure to require use of the secrecy cabins leaves the system vulnerable to abuses of external pressure and manipulation, and could potentially put a stigma on those that choose to vote in private.
Delegations were generally satisfied with the functioning of the SAS and with the data entry procedures at the Territorial Commission level. However, they noted that the counting procedures at polling stations often appeared confused and disorganized. There was common agreement that completion of the protocol seemed to be difficult for polling station commissions, and that mistakes in the were common.
It appeared to a number of delegations that a significant number of observers representing President Yeltsin seemed to be affiliated with local administrations. Some questioned whether this was not a violation of Article 38 which precludes officials of bodies of state power from participating in pre-election campaigns.1
It was commonly noted that not all candidates appeared to have taken advantages of provisions of law allowing them to have deliberative members on commissions and representative observers at the polling sites. Zyuganov and the Communist Party seemed to have the most comprehensive coverage. There was general consensus that generally, candidate observers did not appear have a thorough understanding of their role and did not appear to be acting effectively.
At several sites delegations noted violations of the prohibition against campaigning on election day. Several delegations noted that Communist Party symbols appeared in polling stations. Yeltsin supporters were seen giving out pins that stated, «Yeltsin is our President,» and autographed copies of the Constitution.
Specific Instances Noted:
While not widespread, there were reported instances where delegations were denied access, particularly in sensitive military or prison polling stations. There were also reports of isolated instances where domestic observers were denied certified copies of protocols.
A number of delegates commented on specific problems which arose related to voting by persons who were not on the voter lists. In a few instances blocs of voters residing in a particular building or at a specific facility had been neglected when the voter lists were prepared. Another issue arose related to questions of citizenship or residency. In particular, there appears to be an inadequate resolution of issues related to eligibility of ethnic Russians who have immigrated from NIS countries but have no documents that prove their citizenship. In some instances voters in this circumstance told international delegates that they were turned away even though they had been on the voter lists for the Duma election in December 1995.
In one area, it was noted that voters who had not applied for absentee certificates were applying for registration in the community for the purposes of voting with the intention of re-registering in their resident communities when they returned home.
The most egregious incident reported related to voting at a long-term health care facility in Ivonova involving approximately 700 voters. According to the report, as incapacitated voters were assisted there appeared to be a blatant bias for Yeltsin by members of the commission. For example, it was reported that when a voter identified a preference other than Yeltsin, he was questioned as to whether he was sure of his choice. When the list of candidates was read to a voter, Yeltsin's name was emphasized, or identified as the only candidate. It was also reported that a written complaint had been filed by at least one candidate observer.
1 IFES believes that this might be an arguable conclusion since Article 38 deals with the conduct of preelection campaigns and the distribution of propaganda materials, and because the pre-election campaign period ends at 12:00 p.m. local time prior to the day preceding the day of election.