Yesterday, The Power Vertical wrote about the amusing story of 23-year-old Anton Chumachenko, a Unified Russia member in St. Petersburg who announced that he is refusing a seat on a local district council because the results of the election were falsified by local election officials.
The naive young man's eyes were opened when he saw that the officially published polling station protocols were completely different from the ones he and his staffers had seen in person on election night. Today, RFE/RL's Russian Service was able to ask Chumachenko a few questions about his surprising decision to go public with information that everyone in Russia knows, but about which few insiders are willing to speak. Here is the interview in full:
RFE/RL: Why did you issue your open letter now, a month after the elections?
Anton Chumachenko: We waited a long time for the official publication of the results of the elections. You know that they don't come into force until they have been officially published. This happened literally one week ago, and we took a week to think over what had happened and that is why, apparently, our reaction seems a little late.
RFE/RL: And why did you make such a decision? This would seem to be the first time that a Unified Russia member has refused a mandate.
Chumachenko: I did it because my personal position -- and that of the party, I think -- is that we are building a law-based state and must live within the framework of the law. This is such a cynical violation of rights -- it is just funny when, looking us straight in the eye, they switch the protocols or change the results of the voting. This made me very angry.
RFE/RL: But earlier you never thought that such things happen and that Unified Russia is involved in them?
Chumachenko: I can't speak about what I don't know. This is the first time I have participated in an election. Maybe I don't have enough campaign experience. Maybe I was a little naive. But I will speak about what I do know. It wouldn't be correct to guess and to speak in the subjunctive tense about such things.
RFE/RL: But the opposition has long claimed that elections are rigged and that the party of power uses well-known techniques.
Chumachenko: Why is it that I, a member of Unified Russia, decided to talk about this? Because I think the party should consider itself victimized in these elections by the actions of the election commission.
RFE/RL: You think that it is precisely the election commission that is guilty?
Chumachenko: I think it is precisely the election commission that is guilty, which acted on the advice... of someone. But it is probably for them to talk about that.
RFE/RL: But didn't you hear earlier, when you joined Unified Russia, about such things? Didn't that concern you?
Chumachenko: I never heard about this. Such information was unknown to me. For my part, I can say proudly that I am a member of Unified Russia, a member of a party that always stands up for the interests of its constituents, the interests of citizens, within the framework of the law.
Here is the text of Chumachenko's surprising open letter:
I, Anton Chumachenko, a participant in the recent election for the organs of local self-government and a member of the Unified Russia party, by a decision of the election commission of the Morsky District, have become a deputy of local self-government. I emphasize -- "by a decision of the election commission of the Morsky District," not because I was actually elected. It is clear to me and to the other participants in the campaign that the results of the voting in our district were falsified. Judging from the protocols of all six polling stations of the election commission it is clear that I did not rank among the five candidates who received the most votes.
I am definitely disappointed that I lost the election. But I do not need this kind of victory! I cannot in good conscience agree to brazenly and openly violate the rights of people to freely elect their leaders simply for the sake of some short-term advantage. The rights of voters are sacred! I do not want to begin my political career with a cynical mockery of rights, laws, and morality. I am sincerely convinced that my colleagues in the party will support my position and will use all their efforts to make sure that the rule of law triumphs. The strength of the party is not in exaggerated percentages of support, but in its ability to stand up for the truth.
-- Robert Coalson