Moscow’s Foreign Ministry took a shot at American democracy on Wednesday.
“The #US lectures the world on democracy and human rights, but looks only to its own laws when flaws in its voting system are pointed out,” the ministry tweeted from its English language account. “The #US electoral system is decentralised, fragmented and obsolete,” the ministry added in another tweet moments later.
Opponents of the electoral college (which could include more Americans if one candidate loses next Tuesday’s election despite winning the popular vote) might not disagree with the broad strokes of that second point.
Of course, recent Russian elections have been marred by reports of widespread voter fraud. And since President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration in May, human rights activists have sounded the alarm about a string of new, increasingly restrictive laws and policies that appear aimed at intimidating Russia’s opposition.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statements came amid rising anti-American rhetoric from the Kremlin and echoed criticism from Russia’s election chief, who penned a lengthy piece ripping apart the American election process in a state-owned newspaper on Wednesday.
“The elections for the president of the USA are not direct, not universal, not equal and do not preserve voting secrecy,” Vladimir Churov wrote, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “It’s a stretch of the imagination to talk about the right of American citizens to choose their president.”
The ministry’s criticism also followed a pair of tweets slamming threats by the Texas State Attorney General that international election observers could be prosecuted if they try to enter polling places there.
The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, an arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is one of several international observers that keep an eye out for voting fraud around the world and plans to operate in Texas.
“The situation around the #ODIHR observers monitoring the upcoming #US presidential election in #Texas is disturbing,” the ministry tweeted today, before adding some criticism of the OSCE as well.
“Unfortunately, the #ODIHR has not fully assessed the #Texas authorities’ threats to file criminal charges against international observers,” the ministry tweeted. Last week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to warn that the OSCE was still subject to Texas state law.
“It appears that OSCE is under the misimpression that the State Department can somehow help its representatives circumvent the Texas Election Code,” Abbott wrote. “Texas law prohibits unauthorized persons from entering a polling place - or loitering within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance - on Election Day. OSCE monitors are expected to follow that law like everyone else.”
In the end, Russia’s concerns and Texas’ uproar may all be for nothing. OSCE Ambassador Daan Everts, dismissed Abbot’s concerns, saying his observers had no plans to enter polling places.
“He should be better informed,” Everts told the Associated Press, referring to Abbott. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that the OSCE is attempting to resolve the situation.
“The OSCE has reassured us. They have also made commitments to Texas that they have no intention of violating any U.S. laws. They are now talking to Texas authorities about how to proceed here, and that’s the right channel for the conversation to go on,” she told reporters last Friday.
Nuland also confirmed that the OSCE monitors “are eligible for full immunities in the United States. We don’t think that it’s going to come to having to invoke these. We have every confidence that OSCE representatives in Texas and any other state where they are observing will be able to work things out,” she added.