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OSCE, PACE Say Russian Election Fell Shy Of Standards

Moscow, 15 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- A European observer mission today criticized Russia's presidential election, saying that state-controlled media had contributed to a slanted campaign.

Julian Peel Yates, the head of the joint observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), said yesterday's election "did not adequately reflect the principles of a healthy democratic election process."

"The election process overall did not adequately reflect principles necessary for a healthy democratic election process. Essential elements of the OSCE commitments, of the Council of Europe's standards for democratic elections such as a vibrant political discourse and meaningful pluralism were lacking," Yates said.

Yates said Russian authorities failed to fully observe the principles of secret balloting and the neutrality of state-controlled media.

President Vladimir Putin won a landslide re-election with 71 percent of the vote, easily defeating his five challengers.

Countering the OSCE's criticism, the head of an observer mission from the Commonwealth of Independent States, Yurii Yarov, said the mission had found the election overall to be free, democratic, and fair.