Russia Refuses OSCE Observer's Invitation to Presidential Elections

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: February 11, 2024; 18:53 ♦ (Vindobona)

The Russian Federation's decision not to invite observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to the upcoming presidential elections has been met with deep regret by the leaders of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA).

Vladimir Putin's re-election in the upcoming Russian presidential election is inevitable, raising concerns about democratic competition. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / - The President of the Russian Federation [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

In the upcoming Russian presidential election, Vladimir Putin's re-election seems inevitable, raising questions about political competition and the democratic process.

Matteo Mecacci, Director of the ODIHR, expressed deep disappointment at the decision to exclude the OSCE from observing the Russian presidential election. "This contradicts the Russian Federation's commitments to the OSCE and at the same time will deny the country's voters and institutions an impartial and independent assessment of the election."

The ODIHR is recognized worldwide for its credible and reliable assessment of elections in the region, using a comprehensive and consistent methodology. All OSCE member states recognize the importance of democratic elections for "our societies," Mecacci said. ODIHR clarifies that this latest decision reflects a clear lack of willingness to cooperate with OSCE international observers, despite the commitments made by all OSCE countries. It also reinforces growing concerns about the narrowing of democratic space and the erosion of fundamental rights in the Russian Federation. Any system that defines itself as democratic welcomes international scrutiny and promotes transparency, Mecacci said.

Pia Kauma, President of the OSCE PA, regretted that conditions in the Russian Federation have deteriorated so much that it is not possible to send observers to the presidential elections in March. "Unfortunately, the democratic backsliding has reached such a critical point that we cannot be on the ground this year, but we will of course continue to monitor the situation closely."

OSCE and Russian elections

The ODIHR began consultations with the Russian Federation as early as September 2023 to agree on the dates for the deployment of a pre-election needs assessment mission, a first and crucial step in deciding whether to deploy an election observation mission and in what format. Following the 2021 parliamentary elections, in which no OSCE observers were deployed after significant restrictions were imposed by the Russian Federation authorities, the presidential election on March 17, 2024, will be the second consecutive time that the OSCE will not be able to observe elections in the country.

Russia has been disrupting the work of the OSCE since before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Putin sees the work of the OSCE as a threat to his power and

All OSCE participating States have committed to invite observers from other OSCE participating States and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to observe and promptly comply with the ODIHR's assessments and recommendations on elections. OSCE PA parliamentary observers provide their political expertise and personal experience in electoral processes to the OSCE through election observation work throughout the OSCE region.

Putin's Inevitable Election Victory

In Russia's political landscape, as the presidential election nears, a clear favoritism for Vladimir Putin's re-election is emerging. Other candidates who are eligible to participate in the electoral process face a dilemma. Their campaign strategies and roles are overshadowed by Putin's extensive influence and the broad conviction of his inevitable victory. This dynamic raises important questions about the authenticity of political competition and the democratic process in Russia.

Putin stands unchallenged. His official registration as a candidate seems unrivaled. Most of his powerful opponents are either imprisoned or have fled the country for security reasons. The dominant presence of the incumbent underlines the tightly controlled nature of the Russian elections and the ongoing suppression of dissent and opposition.

The approved candidates operate in a political environment in which the outcome seems predetermined. This harsh reality has an impact on the legitimacy of the election and the ability of the opposition to seriously challenge the incumbent.

More than two dozen Members of the European Parliament from 15 countries have launched a joint appeal calling on the EU not to recognize the legitimacy of the upcoming election. They argue that Vladimir Putin's re-election would be illegitimate, pointing to the criminal and corrupt nature of his regime and the state of democracy in Russia. This appeal expresses a global concern about the state of democracy in Russia, highlights the potential illegitimacy of the election, and reinforces the challenges faced by opposition candidates.

Although the ODIHR is unable to monitor the upcoming presidential elections, the Office continues to monitor developments in the Russian Federation in all areas of its mandate.