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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vote Called Fair in General, Biased in Parts

A key group of international observers Friday joined the chorus of those who have declared that Russia's presidential elections had been generally fair, but added that national media bias and pressure by local administration heads in favor of President Boris Yeltsin had marred the election process.

Reading a final statement to reporters, Michael Meadowcroft, Moscow coordinator of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, and Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights observer team, said the organization's 400 observers had found that the election results "accurately reflect the wishes of the Russian electorate."

The vote had led to "a further consolidation of the democratic process" in Russia, Meadowcroft added.

But serious reservations -- among them concerns about the Central Election Commission's impartiality -- remain, he said.

By failing to correct the heavy bias of media coverage in favor of Yeltsin, the CEC, appointed by the executive branch, appeared unwilling to enforce its own rules, the OSCE report states.

"I think without a doubt there was influence from the media campaigns," said Meadowcroft.

OSCE report recommendations on tightening enforcement of campaign coverage regulations were not picked up by the CEC after the first round of voting June 16, the report mentions.

CEC financial accountability rules also came under attack, with the OSCE's final report noting that initiatives funded by separate organizations for a candidate -- a veiled reference to the plethora of rallies and concert galas organized for Yeltsin by nominally independent well-wishers on the eve of the vote -- canceled the effectiveness of CEC-imposed campaign spending limits.

Particularly aggressive attempts to get out the vote for Yeltsin were detected by OSCE observers in Tatarstan, where local officials threatened in some regions to cut off gas supplies if the vote went to Zyuganov.

In Mordova, owners of a communist journal were arrested after publishing a letter allegedly from the president's campaign to local officials saying that voters who voted against Yeltsin would put their jobs in jeopardy, Meadowcroft said.

Other than several cases of distribution of pro-Zyuganov literature after the July 2 campaign moratorium, very few violations of voting procedures were detected in the communist camp, he said.