Russian election candidates resort to bizarre tactics to woo voters

A agitator of the United Russia political party hands out newspapers with portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin in front of a poster of liberal party Yabloko with portrait of the party leader Grigoriy Yavlinskiy in Moscow.

A agitator of the United Russia political party hands out newspapers with portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin in front of a poster of liberal party Yabloko with portrait of the party leader Grigoriy Yavlinskiy in Moscow.

Less than a week remains before the elections to the Russian State Duma on Sept. 18. The election campaign is in full swing and in order to attract votes some politicians are resorting to very strange tactics.

For the first time since 2003 the 2016 parliamentary elections in Russia will be held in accordance with a mixed scheme: Citizens will not only vote for party lists but also for candidates from single mandate districts.

As the election campaign enters its final week, single-mandate candidates are trying to stand out and parties want to advertise their programs. At times this all looks very exotic, with some candidates using tactics and ideas that are nothing short of bizarre in their attempts to woo voters.

Gennady Onischenko and his liver

From 1996 to 2013 Gennady Onischenko was Russia's chief sanitary doctor and this has certainly had an impact on his election campaign (Onischenko is running as a single-mandate candidate from the ruling United Russia Party). Onischenko is aiming to enter the Duma under the slogan "Make a healthy choice!" and is building his campaign on propaganda for a healthy lifestyle.

While Onischenko's visits to stores to check the quality of products and his propaganda flu vaccinations seem normal, the #IloveMyLiver flashmob launched by his headquarters is extremely… original. In north-western Moscow a large red model of a human liver that people can embrace has been put up. This is how Onischenko is calling on everyone to fight alcoholism.

"The liver continues its sanitary mission! Flashmob #IloveMyLiver is by the Tushinskaya metro station, 12:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. daily.”

To the elections with a scythe and an arctic fox

Far from the capital, in the Serovsky single-mandate district (900 miles east of Moscow), Maxim Shingarkin from the patriotic Rodina Party is also running for the Duma.

Shingarkin has adopted the image of the "real Russian muzhik." In his video he is dressed as a medieval peasant and is mowing a meadow to epic music; then, wiping the sweat from his forehead, he utters threateningly: "The meadows are not mowed, the fields are abandoned. Regional officials are stuffing their purse. It's time to mow, to plough the fields and chase away the regional officials."

The climax of the austere candidate's performance is reached in another video, in which he declares: "People live in dilapidated housing while the minister gets fat on construction kickbacks to the government, the minister gets fat on kickbacks! He is an arctic fox!" Then the video actually shows a worn-out arctic fox (in Russian the animal's name pisets sounds remarkably close to the expletive pizdets, which means “messed up”)

Video by Vitaly Reyngeverts / YouTube

The candidate with steel…

Many opposition candidates are trying to show their integrity, meaning that no pressure "from above" would prevent them from defending the people's interests. Yabloko Party candidate Dmitry Golovin from Yekaterinburg (900 miles east of Moscow) has outdone everybody.

In a succinct video, Golovin's wooden hammer breaks pair after pair of chicken eggs, but the last pair it is unable to break. An off-screen voice then says confidently: "Dmitry Golovin. A man with steel… principles." (In Russian the word for eggs, yaitsa, also means testicles)

Video by Dmitry Golovin / YouTube

Friends of animals

Alexander Gliskov, a candidate from the Liberal-Democratic Party, decided to play on Russians' affection for dogs and cats. "The LDPR is against irresponsibility towards pets," says Gliskov's poster, in which he is holding a big black cat. This is followed by a radical conclusion: "If you have a dog or a cat, vote for LDPR!"

"That makes sense"

Doing nothing

Longtime opposition Yabloko Party leader Grigory Yavlinsky filmed a silent video in support for his party. In it the politician, showing some signs, calls on people to go and vote. The video itself is serious but in social networks the images with the signs in which Yavlinsky criticizes inactivity quickly turned into memes.

The sign: "It's possible to do nothing AT ALL"

Comment: "Yavlinsky reminds everyone what a healthy person's Saturday is like"

The sign: "You can curse the government and drink"

Comment: "Well, if Yavlinsky himself permits it!"

Read more: What is the Kremlin doing to make the parliamentary elections honest?

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