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Call on representatives of democratic nations to abstain from Russia’s election visitors programme


Ahead of the presidential 'election' in Russia scheduled for 15-17 March 2024, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) wishes to underscore the importance of upholding the defining principles of independent international election observation. These include, among others, unimpeded access to key phases of the electoral cycle and to electoral personnel, freedom of movement across the country, and freedom to issue statements and reports. 

Unfortunately, Russia has once again decided not to invite long-established, impartial and professional international election observer organizations such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) to observe the upcoming 'election'. Instead, Russian authorities misleadingly claim to have invited '500 to 1,000 international observers from more than 100 countries,' who in fact do not represent observer missions but a visitors programme.   

It is important to differentiate between a visitors programme and an international electoral observation mission. A visitors programme is not an election observation mission, but a programme designed by an electoral management body to show a snapshot of an election process from their perspective. Moreover, a visitors programme does not follow a systematic methodology to examine a given electoral process for its compliance with international standards for free and fair elections. Consequently, participants of visitors programmes should not allow their findings to be portrayed and promoted as those of an international electoral observation mission. 

A credible international election observation mission has full access to electoral processes, including and beyond election day, to stakeholders across the territory, and throughout the electoral cycle, and behaves with absolute impartiality. Such missions should follow the established methods and high standards, as enshrined in the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, endorsed in 2005 at the United Nations and currently shared by nearly 50 international and intergovernmental organizations. 


  • International election observation is the systematic, comprehensive and accurate gathering of information concerning the laws, processes and institutions related to the conduct of elections and other factors concerning the overall electoral environment; the impartial and professional analysis of such information; and the drawing of conclusions about the character of electoral processes based on the highest standards for accuracy of information and impartiality of analysis. 
  • International election observation missions should not accept funding or infrastructural support from the government whose elections are being observed, as it may raise a significant conflict of interest and undermine confidence in the integrity of the mission’s findings. International election observation delegations should be prepared to disclose the sources of their funding upon appropriate and reasonable requests. 
  • Such missions should guarantee that no governmental, security or electoral authority will interfere in the selection of individual observers or other members of the international election observation mission or attempt to limit its numbers. 
  • International election observation missions should seek and may require acceptance of their presence by all major political competitors. 
  • International election observation examines conditions relating to the right to vote and to be elected. All observer missions must make concerted efforts to place the election day into the broader context and not to over-emphasize the importance of election day observations while ignoring the rest of the process.

The visitors referred to by the Russian authorities will not be able to conduct their work under the conditions in the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation. International IDEA calls on election authorities and other representatives of all democratic nations to abstain from visitors programmes that may be misrepresented as electoral observation missions for the Russian ‘election’. 

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Alistair Scrutton
Head of Communications and Knowledge Management
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