In wake of Russian election, we must remain vigilant in upholding OSCE commitments


By OSCE PA President Pia Kauma

Originally published at

18 March 2024

With the predictable results now in for the Russian Federation’s presidential election, it is all the more apparent that there is an urgent need for concerted efforts to address democratic backsliding and uphold the principles enshrined in the OSCE framework. As OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President, I regret that we were unable to observe this election because observers from the OSCE PA and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights were barred from entering the country. As I stated in January, Moscow’s refusal to invite OSCE observers was a breach of its international commitments.

Without a team on the ground following all aspects of an election, our ability to comment substantively and comprehensively is limited, but there are a number of takeaways that may be drawn from the three days of voting and the outcome.

First, we must recognize that the holding of parliamentary elections in occupied Ukrainian territory was utterly unacceptable and illegitimate, serving only as an attempt to solidify Russia’s illegal annexation and perpetuate a cycle of disregard for international norms.

The so-called “elections” in occupied regions of Ukraine are emblematic of Russia’s complete disregard for its international commitments. We must not forget that Moscow has attempted to annex these territories through the use of force, flagrantly violating all of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act’s principles upon which the OSCE is based. These include sovereign equality and respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty, refraining from the threat or use of force, inviolability of frontiers, the territorial integrity of states, and respect for people’s rights. Elections held in violation of these principles are simply unacceptable.

The Russian Federation’s disdain for its neighbours’ sovereignty was also apparent in the opening of polling stations in Transdniestria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia without the consent of Moldova or Georgia.

Second, the refusal to allow OSCE observers with a mandate to monitor elections undermines the integrity of international election observation. The OSCE has a longstanding reputation for credible and reliable election assessments, utilizing a comprehensive methodology respected worldwide. It is regrettable that conditions in Russia have deteriorated to the extent that international observers cannot fulfill their vital role in determining the fairness and transparency of elections.

The refusal to co-operate with impartial international observers not only violates OSCE commitments but also reflects a broader trend of unchecked presidential power, shrinking democratic space and disregard for fundamental rights within the Russian Federation. Democratic societies understand the value of international scrutiny and welcome it as a means to reinforce the integrity of their electoral processes.

Third, as the OSCE PA has consistently noted over the past several years, a steady erosion of democracy in Russia has meant that legitimate opposition to the incumbent has been marginalized and neutralized. Journalists, reformers and politicians have been imprisoned and sometimes killed.

Just last month, Alexei Navalny died in a Russian prison, joining a long list of names such as Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Nemtsov, and Sergei Magnitsky — people whose bravery in standing apart from the authorities has resulted in dying tragically under mysterious circumstances. Other dissidents, such as Vladimir Kara-Murza, continue to languish in prison. In a country where opposition figures are routinely targeted for their political activities, true democracy is impossible.

People went to the polls for the past three days in Russia, but the elimination of any organized opposition in recent years, effective control of the media space by the incumbent authorities, as well as consistent breaches of freedoms of expression, association and assembly all severely undermine the very foundations on which a real election must be held. In rejection of this election, many Russian citizens participated in “silent protests” in cities such as Berlin and Belgrade.

As members of the international community committed to promoting democracy and human rights, we must remain vigilant in holding all states accountable to their obligations. It is incumbent upon all OSCE participating states to reaffirm their commitment to transparency, accountability, and respect for international norms.

In the face of growing authoritarian tendencies and geopolitical tensions, the role of international organizations like the OSCE becomes increasingly vital. By standing firm in defence of democratic principles and supporting independent election monitoring, we can strive towards a future where democratic governance prevails and the rights of all citizens are upheld.

We look forward to a time when we can again engage in a constructive process of working to improve democratic processes in Russia, in close co-operation with the Russian people and authorities. Unfortunately, the disrespect of the current authorities for democratic principles, international norms, or detailed commitments that the Russian Government has itself undertaken has made this impossible on this occasion.

Pia Kauma is a member of the Finnish Parliament and since July 2023 has served as President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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