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Election Observers Claim Fraud, Intimidation In Russian Vote

People stand near screens displaying preliminary results of the presidential elections at Vladimir Putin's campaign headquarters in Moscow on March 4.
People stand near screens displaying preliminary results of the presidential elections at Vladimir Putin's campaign headquarters in Moscow on March 4.

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Russian Election-Fraud Tactics -- Something Old, Something New

International monitors say the March 4 presidential election that swept Vladimir Putin back into the Kremlin was unfair, while Russian volunteer monitors denounce widespread voting fraud. Most of the alleged irregularities reported are time-tested tactics observed in previous elections. But the election also yielded some innovations.
By Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW -- It doesn’t get much more blatant than a group of men and women stuffing a ballot box live on camera.

But that is exactly what happened in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Daghestan thanks to web cameras positioned in polling stations across the country that were streamed online during presidential elections on March 4.

As word spread via a YouTube video (below) and other social media, the Central Election Commission was forced to annull all results from the polling station in the town of Tarumovka.

The authorities downplayed the incident, calling it an isolated case.

Stanislav Govorukhin, Putin’s campaign manager, called the election the “cleanest in the history of the Russian Federation” and derided the opposition's claims of massive fraud "laughable."

"[Violations are] a mere fraction of 1 percent," Govorukhin said. "In any civilized country, such an election would be considered fair and valid."

But Govorukhin's protestations notwithstanding, videos from different corners of Russia (below) purported to uncover similar cases of ballot stuffing.

Moreover, local election observers said the most blatant ballot stuffing was just the tip of the iceberg. According to the observers, violations ranged from new and subtler techniques of fraud to tried-and-true methods like “carousel” voting, wherein voters are bused to various polling stations to cast their votes sometimes dozens of times.

Election Explainer: Russia's Presidential Election

'Stone Age Technology'

Lilya Shibanova, head of the independent election monitoring group Golos, cited cases of the heads of major enterprises, who are dependent on the goodwill of the Kremlin, pressuring their employees to vote en masse for Putin.

"There is pressure from bosses of enterprises who have the resources to mobilize their people to vote," Shibanova said.

Golos’s deputy director, Grigory Melkonyants, called ballot stuffing “Stone Age technology.” In remarks reported by AP, he said carousel voters were issued distinctive symbols such as armbands to make it easier for election officials to recognize them and give them ballot papers that otherwise would not be used.

Overall, Golos said it has received over 5,000 complaints of electoral violations. Likewise, the League of Voters, a civic group formed following allegations of mass fraud in the December 4 parliamentary elections, said they have found over 3,000 violations.

The thousands of volunteer citizen election observers posted videos on the Internet throughout the day cataloguing alleged violations.

Sergei Koblov, an election observer in Moscow's Cheryomushki district, told RFE/RL he saw “a large number of voters brought by bus to our polling station and the neighboring station.”

"When we asked those people where they came from, they refused to give us a clear answer," Koblov said. "Judging by the license plates of the vehicles that brought them, we understand that they came from a region outside Moscow Oblast."

Aleksei Navalny, an opposition leader and prolific anticorruption blogger, said "hundreds" of buses were used in carousel voting at Russia’s 91,000 polling stations. He told the BBC that Putin’s election would be regarded as “illegitimate” by the burgeoning middle class that makes up the backbone of the protest movement, which plans to hold a mass demonstration in downtown Moscow on March 5.

Observers Pressured?

Kremlin critics also alleged that the authorities exerted pressure on election observers.

Oksana Dmitriyeva, a State Duma deputy from the center-left A Just Russia party, wrote on Twitter that her team of observers has documented "numerous cases of observers being expelled from polling stations across St. Petersburg just before the vote count.”

In the Moscow Oblast, pressure on election monitors took on a more menacing form. reported that Aleksandr Mavrin, an observer for presidential candidate Sergei Mironov, was told threateningly to leave a polling station before the vote count began. Mavrin was then phoned by his wife who informed him that the door of their house had been set on fire, forcing him to run home. His wife has been taken to the hospital.

Golos head Shibanova said that several of her correspondents were also beaten in the Moscow Oblast.

"There was a conflict with the district election commission, which prohibited observers from moving around the polling station," Shibanova said. "[Golos] correspondents began explaining to the election officials that their demand was illegal, but they were removed from the polling station under the threat of physical violence. They went to the territorial election commission of the town of Zheleznodorozhny, apparently to file a complaint, where a group of plain-clothes people barged in and basically beat our correspondents."

Tom Balmforth

Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics.


This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Mike from: US
March 05, 2012 01:39
Smile everyone, Woland has returned!

by: John from: Canada
March 05, 2012 02:16
Well, one would HOPE that the Central Election Commission would annul such blatant signals of electoral corruption, but the CEC is just not independent enough to be able to go after the systemic issue of the jury-rigging of the whole system so that, for most Russians, Putin stands out as being the only credible candidate. However, video is a powerful tool and the billion-dollar webcam system might well be worth it - if Russians can see such abuses, the abuses are confirmed, and then they are moved enough to improve their electoral system.

by: Marko from: USA
March 05, 2012 12:32
I'll try to present a balanced view. The truth lies somewhere between... the real number was probably about 58-59% as the exit polls suggested. The extra 5% is fraud (there has never been a clean election in Russia). Still, Putin won , as he should have. The opposition is a hopeless hodgepodge of outdated communists, divisive nationalists, and CIA stooge liberals with no coherent program or ability to actually run the country (one gets the sense that they aren't really even interested in trying-- just in inducing chaos). Putin's been a pretty effective leader overall-- and in Russia's case that simply isn't in the West's interest. The West assiduously supported Yeltsin (who attacked his own parliament with tanks, shot street protestors, stole the 1996 election with the West's support) precisely because he was weak and ineffective. Putin's statist system is more grossly and completely corrupt with its concentration of power (than the more decentralized and individualistically-based systems in the West), but it at least has some paternalistic interest in taking care of its citizens. In the globalist West these days, the ultimate extension of Enlightenment capitalist-individualist principles has produced a cutthroat society of atomized individuals with zero regard for the collective welfare. The rich buy elections, write laws to favor themselves through lobbyists, game the economic system, etc. The endemic corruption is thus more subtle but still there-- see 2008 housing bubble and the bailouts). In both Russia and the West though, it is still possible for middle-class people to have a great happy life and material prosperity (though the West's looming debt crisis and Russia's inherent geographic, economic, and political [particularly core-periphery antagonisms] instability may ultimately imperial both). This opportunity has always been there the case in the West, but is new to Russia-- thanks to the much-reviled Vladimir Putin.
In Response

by: eli
March 05, 2012 13:11
"I'll try to present a balanced view."

"CIA stooge liberals with no coherent program or ability to actually run the country (one gets the sense that they aren't really even interested in trying-- just in inducing chaos".

Very funny!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 05, 2012 14:50
Eli, what happened to those "poor unarmed civilians" in Homs, Syria, that you were going to save from Assad, Putin and Ahmadinejad a couple of weeks ago? Assad, Putin and Ahmadinejad appear to be exactly where they were back then, whereas your "unarmed" friends seem to have been kicked back to Saudi Arbia. You are not doing a very good job executing the orders of your gringo bosses, Eli, and they don't like it: just look at Mubarak - as soon as he was not in control of the situation any more, the gringos authorized him being condemned to death (after he's been serving them for 30 years!). So, get to work (wo)man instead of wasting time commenting on the "balanced" remarks of Marko from the US :-).
In Response

by: rick from: milan
March 05, 2012 14:59
Why you do not like this definition?

for me it is perfect !

What could be there of more typical

a real guaranty of democracy

then chaos?

when USA "export democracy"

what they do ?

they bring chaos in those country where a rigid centralized system

didn't allow them to do their business .

So ... we can speak that in dollar banKnote

insted of "in god we trust"

should be better to write

"in chaos we trust"

is a technique familiar even for the ancient Romans

they usually were sayng :

"divide et impera" = "Divide and rule"
In Response

by: steve
March 05, 2012 16:43
Eli, dude, you woke up the trolls...
In Response

by: Marko from: USA
March 06, 2012 00:42
Ok, so what is it--other than "Putin out

by: Bogomir Lookoff (Jeff) from: Moscow
March 05, 2012 19:44
Russian democratic opposition can not afford to act in appropriate ways as KGB. This junta of chekisty-bolsheviky STOKE democracy and liberals in the blood, pushing them to the nationalists, drowns cynically manipulating information. Corruption and incompetence of officials as a phenomenon are the two biggest and most obvious threat to Russian national security. We are seeing in terms of currency flow from Russia, the number of departing into exile, and the shaft of man-made disasters. Falls civil and military aircrafts, space rockets and satellites, burn and explode nuclear submarine, bases and arms. Everything will clear up when the new authority of Russia will investigate with the help of the International Criminal Court crimes of chekisty-bolshevikys, committed last 20 years against the citizens of Russia and the world. BUT before that time, world can be blown up with a Russian chemical and bacteriological weapons and nuclear missiles, including by accident.
The question of democracy in Russia today is self-preservation matter of the WHOLE PLANET, the World tomorrow. Think, gentlemen, with a strong social imperialism. YOUR tomorrow may never come! The sooner you accept the Law of Magnitsky in the EU, U.S. and Commonwealth - the faster you will protect yourself and your future!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
March 06, 2012 09:09
JEFF, are you ok? What are you talking about, man? What Magnitsky, what bacterialogical weapons? Europe and the US have no idea what to do about their astronomic budget deficits, sovereign debt, the deindustrialization and the never-ending recession. So, I am afraid, for the time being there will be no interest in your proposal. Don't call them - they'll call you and God bless you :-))).

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