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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lawmaker Disputes Need for Fair Vote

APCommunist supporters rallying near the Mayakovskaya metro Saturday to protest violations in the Duma elections.
The philosophical gap between Russia and the West over what democracy really means widened Friday when a senior State Duma deputy challenged the Council of Europe for even suggesting that the Duma elections should have been fair.

The comments by Konstantin Kosachyov, a United Russia deputy and vice speaker of the council's Parliamentary Assembly, or PACE, underlined Russia's resentment of international criticism of the Dec. 2 vote and suggested that a similar round of accusations and complaints would result from the presidential election in March.

The Council of Europe took Russia to task over the Duma elections on the grounds that state television gave extensive and favorable coverage to President Vladimir Putin's party and virtually ignored opposition forces.

PACE chairman Rene van der Linden, speaking at a news conference with Kosachyov, said he had spoken with Russian colleagues about the importance of equal access to news media in the campaign for the March 2 presidential vote.

But Kosachyov later indicated that such discussions could essentially be talking at cross-purposes. Brandishing a copy of the election code of good practices that the council adopted in 2002, he said: "The very first paragraph of this document lists five principles of democratic elections ... elections must be universal, equal, free, secret and direct. And let me note that it doesn't say here that elections must be fair. The words 'fair' or 'unfair' are not used.

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP
Kosachyov holding a copy of PACE's election code as Van der Linden listens.
"So this particular assessment, on fair elections, is political rather than legal," he said. "If we remove political estimates from the report ... it says very clearly that the parliamentary elections in Russia did comply with the five basic criteria adopted by the Council of Europe."

n Some 400 to 500 people gathered on Saturday on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad for a Communist rally to protest the results of the Duma elections as falsified, Interfax reported. Security was tight, with 2,500 police officers and Interior Ministry troops keeping an eye on the rally, which was sanctioned by city authorities, Interfax said. On Sunday, about 200 people protested the election results at a Communist rally in St. Petersburg, Interfax said.