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05/04/2012 Russia: the European Parliament calls for new elections

The European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution on Wednesday December 14th at the plenary session debate on the EU-Russia summit which will take place in Brussels tomorrow. This resolution urges Moscow to organise new elections. On December 4th last, the Russian people were invited to elect members to their parliament, the Duma. The elections that took place were marked by irregularities and did not meet the electoral standards of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) according to MEPs.

This resolution – initiated by the ALDE group (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) – "calls for new free and fair elections to be held after registration of all opposition parties [and] an immediate and full investigation of all reports of fraud and intimidation, and penalties for those found responsible."In voting on this resolution, MEPs also wanted to denounce the "vote rigging", "multiple voting" and the "hundreds" of arrests of opposition members who tried to protest on the election day and in the days after. "We stand behind the Russian people in support of their calls to get back their votes, their choice, their democracy. The European Parliament calls for the annulment of the December 4, 2011 election results and asks for a new, free and fair election which includes the participation of all opposition parties," said ALDE President, Guy Verhofstadt.Mr. Verhofstadt had invited Mikhail Kassianov, former Russian prime minister and leader of the People for Democracy and Justice Party to attend the plenary debate. Banned from taking part in Russia’s Duma elections, Mr. Kassianov thanked the Parliament for the "solidarity demonstrated today by the European Parliament, solidarity with the Russian people, who demand respect for their right to free and fair elections." At a press conference held the day before the debate, he urged European leaders to call their Russian partner to order. "Russia is a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE; it must respect the values of these institutions", he said. Leaders are meeting President Medvedev in Russia tomorrow in Brussels ; is this their chance to set the record straight ? While governments across Europe have so far said little on the subject, Europe’s head of diplomacy, Catherine Ashton, stated on Tuesday to MEPs that European leaders intended to use their meeting with Dmitri Medvedev to share their "concerns about the election problems". Kristina Ojuland, rapporteur of the Parliament resolution and ALDE spokesperson on Russia added, "We call again for the EU to introduce sanctions on the people that were involved in the torture and death of lawyer Sergey Magnitsky.  The time is ripe to follow the example of the US, UK and the Netherlands and introduce EU wide sanctions."

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