An ordinary election

Source: Kommersant

Source: Kommersant

United Russia claims another victory, but at what cost?

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said he is satisfied with the results of the regional legislative assembly and local government elections that took place on March 13, which resulted in widespread victories for the ruling party United Russia. Putin said his party once again showed that it is “the leading political force.”

United Russia had to use a little bit of force in order to show what a strong leader it is. Observers noted:

  • More than 700 violations at polling stations (this many phone calls were received by a single hotline set up by the Golos Association, which monitored the elections);
  • The illegal and unjustified exclusion and removal of observers and journalists from polling station commissions (more than 100 reports of violations of public observers’ rights), particularly in the Kirov, Saratov and Orenburg regions, as well as the Republic of Komi;
  • Attempts to bribe observers (Republic of Agydeya) as well as threats and an illegal search (Nizhny Novgorod);
  • Large-scale ballot box stuffing (a large number of these reports came from Saratov), voting for other individuals, including people who were ineligible to vote;
  • Irregularities in vote counting, vote counting based on voters’ lists (and not ballots) and refusals to issue certified copies of voting records;
  • “Unexpected” breakdowns in vote processing facilities.

According to the Golos Association, “at the same time that observers were being removed en masse from the polling stations, Central Elections Committee Chairman Vladimir Churov was reporting on national television that the elections were a success. It was impossible to get through to him or any other Central Elections Committee member by phone. The Central Elections Committee’s hotline… stopped working at 6:00pm.”

Polling station commissions refused to consider complaints from people concerning voting procedure irregularities in 58 percent of the reported cases. In addition, 83 percent of the polling station commissions made no note of the number of complaints in their final reports.

Behind the scenes, a dirty PR campaign has been launched against undesirable candidates and election officials have refused to register some independent candidates running for deputy and even some parties (for example, the Yabloko party’s list was not registered in the Republic of Komi or the Tambov region).

This is a partial list of the methods that United Russia had to use to show that it is “the leading political force.”

The first blatant violations of democratic election laws in Russia took place during the 1996 presidential elections, when dirty PR tricks were first tried out on Russians and the public consciousness was manipulated with the help of major media outlets, administrative pressure and mass violations in voting procedures as well as vote counting. Boris Yeltsin’s appointed successor, Vladimir Putin, inherited the full arsenal of these methods and the party he leads has shown it is willing and able to utilize it.

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