Russian Election Observers Fined for Election Violations

Posted December 2nd, 2011 at 3:50 pm (UTC-5)
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A Russian judge has found Russia's only independent election monitoring group guilty of election violations for posting voters' complaints online ahead of parliamentary elections on Sunday.

A Moscow court fined the small, Moscow-based observer group, Golos, about $1,000 for compiling election law violations and posting them online. Golos, whose name means “vote,” has nearly 5,000 complaints of alleged violations that it has received via SMS , email and telephone.

Golos public relations manager Dmitry Merezhko told VOA the court ruling will not stop the group from doing their job on Sunday.

“We think that the governmental bodies and the election commission should consider our data with the same seriousness as before. Because actually the court decision doesn't say anything about the quality of our work.”

The court ruling is just the latest incident concerning intimidation of Golos before Sunday's elections, which are expected to favor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. A state-run television station aired a program Friday night attacking Golos.

Merezhko says the program is more of a concern than the court's ruling, and he fears it could influence people who are still making decisions about the election.

But Merezhko says the group has recently received more public support in return for all the media coverage.

“I think in the last couple of days we got a much higher profile than before because just a lot of people for the very first time know about us so I think they are going to trust what we are going to say.”

Golos told VOA it will protest the decision, but not until it's done monitoring the elections.