Diametrically opposite judgements have been made about the December elections to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament. International monitors declared the vote free and fair. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), for example, called them ‘an important step in the country’s democratic development’.
Long-term specialists were far more negative. Michael McFaul of the Carnegie Foundation, who has studied every Russian election since 1989, termed this campaign ‘the worst from the point of view of obvious violations of the rules’. Nowhere were the violations more obvious than in the media. Monitors were appalled at how freedom of speech was used and abused.