Fistly, there was Sarko’s rush to congratulate President Putin on his party list’s victory in the Duma elections. The rest of the EU is still humming and haing, unable to achieve one of those famous common positions.
But Germany flatly called the election "neither free, fair nor democratic" by Western standards, and most other EU governments expressed concern about reports of voting irregularities.Mind you, Donald Tusk also said
Donald Tusk, the new prime minister of Poland, on Tuesday questioned the legitimacy of the Russian elections, saying that they had not respected democratic standards.
"We in Europe should not be tolerant of a situation when democratic standards are not being respected or are downright broken," he said.
You cannot turn a blind eye to what happened, there are results of elections and these results are not going to be challenged by anyone in Europe.Make what you will of that.
Other countries have not been happy with the conduct of those elections either but when it came to a statement, the best the Portuguese presidency could come up with was a bit of finger-wagging:
The EU regrets "that there were many reports and allegations of media restrictions as well as harassment of opposition parties and NGOs in the run-up to the elections and on election day, and that procedures during the electoral campaign did not meet international standards and commitments voluntarily assumed by Moscow," the statement said. "The EU hopes that investigations will clarify the accuracy of these allegations."Hmm. I bet that scared President, now also, presumably, Duma deputy, Putin.
The EU seems to have abandoned its strong feelings about democracy and European values as far as Russia is concerned.
In a similar incident last week, the Portuguese presidency put out a critical statement three days after the arrest of opposition activists in Russia, including the former chess champion Garry Kasparov, only to withdraw it and issue a milder version without explanation.Incidentally, I do not call 63 per cent of the vote (more or less what was expected before Putin went on a huge campaign) on a 64 per cent turn-out a landslide. By Russian standards that is an abject defeat. I have not yet managed to see the full figures so have not blogged on the subject but I understand in Chechnya the vote for United Russia was over 99 per cent on a 99.5 per cent turn-out. Good to know that somebody in that country is paying attention to what matters.
President Sarkozy’s behaviour is particularly odd as he has been, since elected, a lot tougher in his dealings or, at least, conversations with Putin and his henchmen than his predecessor President Chirac was. One cannot help wondering what motivated him to break ranks so visibly.