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'The outcome was never in doubt,' says Irish TD who observed Russian vote

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy was part of an international mission that observed the Russian presidential election and said that the campaign coverage had been “biased” in favour of Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin sheds a tear a rally in Moscow after his victory was announced last night.
Vladimir Putin sheds a tear a rally in Moscow after his victory was announced last night.
Image: Ivan Sekretarev/AP/Press Association Images

FINE GAEL TD Eoghan Murphy has said that “no-one thought there was an actual choice” in the Russian presidential election as he returned from his observer role with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) today.

The Dublin South East deputy was part of the Irish delegation to the OSCE which oversaw the presidential election as Vladimir Putin was returned to power in what the country’s electoral commission said was with a 64 per cent share of the vote.

Independent observers said that Putin’s margin of victory was lower and said that he achieved around 50 per cent of the vote.

In a statement earlier today the OSCE criticised the election and campaign process saying it had been “clearly skewed” in favour of Putin, noting that not all candidates had equal access to the media and that Putin was given a clear advantage over his competitors.

“Biased is a better word,” Murphy told TheJournal.ie this afternoon. “The outcome was never in doubt from the start. The way it was arranged, or organised, there was only going to be one winner.

“The only question was whether that winner would be announced straight away or would there be a need for a second round of voting.”

Putin was declared the winner, returning to the Kremlin for a third term, almost immediately after polls closed last night.

He was seen shedding tears at a victory rally in Moscow alongside party colleague and current president Dmitry Medvedev who is now likely to assume Putins’ role as prime minister.

‘State media promoting their guy’

Murphy said the whole campaign had clearly favoured Putin with media coverage that was focused largely on television advertising and broadcasters’ coverage of campaign rallies.

He said: “There were four other contestants, but no-one saw them as a genuine choice. These people were running to make it look like it was contested election.

“From the beginning, no one thought there as an actual choice. Ninety per cent of campaign spend goes on TV alone. There was no evidence of knocking on doors or dropping leaflets. So on the television coverage there was no fair and equal of coverage.

“Seventy per cent of coverage was on Putin. They would cover Putin’s rallies with commentary and interviewing people there and then just show images of candidates at other rallies. This was State media promoting their guy and promoting him very well.”

Murphy said the installation of webcams in the polling stations had sparked “an interesting debate” but he noted that voters were greeted with a sign when they went into the polling stations which informed them their every action was being monitored.

“I was concerned when I saw that,” he said. “There were people for and against the webcams, but certainly it worked well where we saw it.”

He said that irrespective of the conclusion of the OSCE, it was the widely-held view that even if it had been a “free and fair” election, Putin would still have won it.

He said he hopes that “our independent and objective outside observation will feed into an internal discourse” in Russia now the elections have concluded.

President-elect Vladimir Putin tonight faces protests being organised by those who question the election result with rallies expected in Moscow and other cities across the country. BBC News reports that in the Urals main city of Yekaterinburg, hundreds are chanting “Putin thief!”.

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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