[JURIST] Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia [party website, in Russian] party won parliamentary elections Sunday amid claims of vote-rigging and fraud. United Russia won 64.1 percent of the vote according to preliminary results, far ahead of the Communist Party challenger with 11 percent of the votes. Election observers from the Council of Europe (CoE) [official website] and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [official website] said the elections were "not held on a level playing field" in a joint statement [text] delivered by OSCE President Gordan Lennmarker. The CoE and OSCE noted special concern over a strong media bias [NYT report] towards Putin and the United Russia party leading up to the election, widespread reports of harassment of opposition parties, and a new election code that made it more difficult for smaller political parties go gain the seven percent of the vote necessary to serve on the State Duma. They also called Putin's merging of the state with the United Russia party an abuse of power.
Last week, Amnesty International [advocacy website] flagged concerns about repression and rights violations in the run-up to Russia's parliamentary elections, alleging that the Russian government had interfered with opposition parties' rights of freedom of expression and free assembly [JURIST report]. Amnesty characterized opposition candidate Garry Kasparov - arrested earlier this month in an anti-Putin rally - as a prisoner of conscience. Kasparov was released from jail [JURIST report] a few days before the election. Russian human rights group Golos [advocacy website, in Russian] also said that election observers had already been prevented from effectively observing the elections [Moscow Times report] because of a politically-motivated criminal prosecution. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage. RIA Novosti has local coverage.