Swiss parliamentarians to monitor Russian presidential elections

Two Swiss parliamentarians are part of a Council of Europe delegation that will be monitoring Russia's presidential elections on Sunday. Andreas Gross(pictured) and Claude Frey, are heading for Moscow at the Russian parliament's request.

Two Swiss parliamentarians are part of a Council of Europe delegation that will be monitoring Russia's presidential elections on Sunday. Andreas Gross and Claude Frey, along with their 11 European collegues, are heading for Moscow at the Russian parliament's request.

The team is set to visit balloting stations in Moscow as well as in several other cities, including Saint Petersburg and Koursk. They will also assist in scrutinising the counting system.

The acting president, Vladimir Putin, is widely expected to win the election. The only doubt is whether he will gain an absolute majority on Sunday. If not, a second round will be held two weeks later.

The Council of Europe will not be the only observer mission. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe will also be keeping a close watch on the process.

With 94,000 polling stations dotted across a vast country that boasts 11 different time zones, the task of monitoring the elections to ensure they are free and fair is a major challenge.

Aware of the scale of the project, the socialist deputy, Andreas Gross, insists their role is one of observation, rather than supervision. However, Gross also believes they will be "free to choose our polling stations: it is impossible to manipulate us".

Gross recalls that last December's parliamentary elections were considered as a step towards democracy. In Novemebr, he was an observer to elections in Ukraine which he denounced as fraudulent.

The Council of Europe is due to discuss allegations of Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya in April. In the past, Gross has been ambivalent about whether the Council should impose sanctions on Russia.

But before leaving for Moscow, he said he doubted what sanctions could really achieve: "Sanctions, to do what?" he said. "The responsibility of the Council of Europe is not to isolate Russia. Isolated, Moscow will have less respect for human rights. We don't have a choice." On this issue, Gross said his fellow Swiss parliamentarian on the observer mission, Claude Frey, shares the same view.

swissinfo with agencies

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