MOSCOW -- Prominent Russian opposition figure Aleksei Navalny has called on Central Election Commission (CEC) chief Ella Pamfilova to resign over alleged falsifications in the September 18 parliamentary elections, which gave the ruling United Russia party a constitutional majority in the State Duma and kept liberal Kremlin critics out of the lower parliament house.
Navalny pointed in particular to an outlandish situation in the Saratov Oblast, where official results indicated that United Russia received the exact same proportion of votes -- 62.2 percent -- at scores of polling places. A regional electoral official brushed it off as a "mathematical coincidence."
Long-time human rights activist Pamfilova promised to stamp out voter fraud and hold clean elections when she was put in charge of the CEC in April to replace Vladimir Churov, whom many Russians associated with a 2011 Duma vote that was marred by evidence of widespread fraud. He was known as "The Magician" for his seeming ability to provide results favoring the Kremlin.
Pamfilova has said these elections were much cleaner than past votes, but critics say her reputation is being exploited to give a veneer of legitimacy to what they call a rigged election process. She has annulled results at nine polling stations because of falsifications, warning that this number could grow.
Chairman of the Russian Central Elections Commission Ella Pamfilova (file photo)
Navalny wrote on his blog on September 22 that Pamfilova should step down not "because she promised to resign if the 'elections are a disaster,' but because there are legal reasons for her resignation. And it is a fact that, if she does not quit now, she becomes a direct participant in a crime."
Navalny zeroed in on a string of unusual results spotted in Samara Oblast by Aleksandr Kireyev, an electoral geography expert who posted them on his blog and alleged that results had simply been written rather than recorded to reflect actual ballots cast.
Kireyev said that United Russia obtained 62.2 percent of the vote -- when rounded to the nearest decimal place -- at scores of polling stations. The results that he linked to in his post support this.
Navalny noted that Vyacheslav Volodin, a powerful deputy chief of President Vladimir Putin's staff, ran for the Duma from the region. There has been persistent speculation that Putin will tap Volodin to be speaker of the Duma, which holds its first session in early October.
Navalny called the results in Saratov Oblast a "moment of truth" for Pamfilova. "Either they continue to at least imitate 'honest elections' or they are the same criminals as Churov."
Saratov Oblast election chief Pavel Tochilkin asserted that there was nothing suspicious about the results, telling media outlet RBK that the numbers for United Russia at the polling places in question ranged from 62.16 percent to 62.24 percent.
"All these numbers speak of nothing more than of a mathematical coincidence," he was quoted as saying.
But Ilya Shablinsky, who led an election monitoring mission for the Kremlin human rights council, suggested that the lack of election observers made violations possible.
"In my opinion, polling station commissions can act completely disgracefully when there are no election observers, and you can get these figures. Alas, this is the result of what has happened to our electoral system in the last decade," Shablinsky said.
In his blog, Navalny also cited a statistical analysis that suggests 12 million votes were added to United Russia's scorecard, and pointed to videos of alleged ballot stuffing.
Navalny is barred from running in elections because he is a serving a five-year suspended sentence for criminal convictions that he says were the result of fabricated claims and trials orchestrated by the Kremlin. His Party of Progress was not registered to take part in the Duma elections.