The Council of Europe has released a report criticizing Russia for policies that it says damage the level of democracy in the country, Gazeta.ru reports.
Authors of the report say that while Russia is making progress towards fulfilling the 1985 European Charter on Local Self-Government, which calls for the political, administrative, and financial independence of local government authorities, it must reintroduce direct elections for regional leaders, defend citizens’ current ability to elect mayors, and begin seriously fighting against corruption.
Particularly problematic, notes the report, is Russia’s federal law regulating local self-government, especially a recent amendment that allows mayors and regional leaders to be fired by the Kremlin.
If Russia brought back direct elections for regional leaders, it could "bring back the former level of regional democracy that Russia enjoyed until 2004,” the authors say.
There was also a recommendation that Russia ease the process of creating and registering political parties – a major complaint of opposition groups. Moreover, conditions should be created so that independent candidates have the ability to participate at all levels of local elections.
The Kremlin was not pleased with the report.
Federation Council member Svetlana Orlova said that "it doesn’t follow to impose [the report's] point of view onto Russia,” because "there are different procedures in the countries of the Council of Europe, like, for example, there are no direct elections for the heads of regions in Sweden.”
"Nobody can reproach Russia for a lack of democracy on the local level,” Orlova went on. "The system that has developed in Russia is absolutely normal, and it corresponds with all democratic norms.”
Russia has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1996.
Various structures of the council have repeatedly criticized the Russian authorities for many of its policies. In June, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly issued a resolution condemning human rights violations in the North Caucasus. Moreover, it said that the situation with violations of human rights and of the supremacy of law in Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan is the worst in the entire geographic territory covered by member-countries of the Council of Europe.