Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Observers Believe They Can Safeguard Election

More than 500 foreign election observers are filing through Moscow this week en route to nearly all the voting districts in Russia, officials announced Monday.

The 53 member states of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe are sending in the observers to verify whether the Dec. 12 vote is fair, according to Jacques Rousselier, coordinator of the program.

The politicians and experts are arriving amid opposition complaints of unfair exclusions from the ballot, studies of unbalanced media coverage and reports that many Russian regions are not ready for the vote.

The monitoring effort includes about 200 representatives of the European Parliament and the national parliaments of the European Community, who will arrive this week to monitor elections in over 30 cities and districts, according to Wilfried Geens, charge d'affaires at the Belgian Embassy.

"We are convinced that the presence of hundreds of monitors will act as a safeguard that the elections will be fair and democratic", Karel de Gucht, a Belgian member of the European Parliament, told reporters. If the vote is found to be rigged, the European Parliament could withhold approval of a key trade agreement with Russia that President Boris Yeltsin is expected to sign in Brussels this week, de Gucht said.

Rousselier said in an interview that the CSCE was trying to coordinate travel plans of North American, Japanese and European monitors to avoid having several observer groups in one region and none in another. The European Community monitors organize their own program but share data on who goes where, Rousselier said.

De Gucht, who met with representatives of the 13 blocs competing in the elections, said that few parties had managed to get their message across in Russia's regions because there had been so little time before the elections.

"It's all quite amateuristic. It's hard to even speak of parties", he said.

The monitoring groups will release preliminary reports directly after the elections.