Sabato, 18 Maggio 2024
The controversy / Russia

In Russian elections, a vote falsification occurred every second

According to an estimate by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, there were at least 22 million fraudulent ballots. Videos circulating online also show clear instances of fraud and intimidation at polling stations

Elections in Russia have long been plagued by allegations of fraud and manipulation, but this latest round may have broken records: an estimated 22 million votes in favour of Vladimir Putin are believed to have been falsified, averaging out to practically one every second during the three days of polling last weekend. This estimate comes from the international edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, a longstanding publication now banned in the Federation, whose editor was arrested on February 29th.

Despite the official results from the Central Election Commission indicating a clear victory for Putin with 87.28% of the vote, the fairness of these elections has been questioned by the West, which has denounced the lack of genuine opposition and the repression of dissent in the country. Challenging the 'tsar' were only three candidates who never truly criticized the Kremlin leader: Leonid Slutsky of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), Vladislav Davankov of the New People's Party, and veteran candidate Nikolai Kharitonov of the Communist Party. The only candidate who had spoken out against the conflict in Ukraine, Boris Nadezhdin, leader of a small center-right party, was excluded from the competition last month, accused of irregularities in collecting signatures.

Using a method developed by mathematician Sergey Shpilkin, previously deployed to gauge electoral malpractice in 2011, Novaya Gazeta Europe scrutinized data from 97% of polling stations, revealing a notable incidence of "irregular" ballots. The accusation of 22 million irregular votes, though significant, is only an initial estimate. According to Politico, in about 29 regions, including those most prone to protests, voting took place electronically, described as a "black box" method that facilitates vote manipulation. Additionally, this figure does not account for votes from the occupied Ukrainian territories, where electoral authorities have declared the presence of a greater number of potential voters.

"There's a war going on and zero public oversight," said David Kankiya of the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights (Golos) to Politico,  emphasizing that residents of the occupied areas did not even need a Russian passport to vote. Several videos have also circulated online, which, if authentic, depict overt intimidation and irregularities, such as a Russian soldier entering polling booths and checking how citizens are voting, and others showing individuals inserting batches of new votes.

"Whatever result the authorities had decided on, they got it. We're entering the realm of pure fiction here," Kankiya continued. The queues outside polling stations on Friday, the day polling stations opened and when citizens were urged to vote most strongly, were actually comprised of people "deprived of their voting rights," Kankiya said. "Like in the days of the Soviet Union, when you were forced to vote whether you wanted to or not," he added.

In several polling stations across the country, citizens expressed their dissent by attempting to damage ballot boxes by pouring green ink on ballots or setting them on fire, or by showing up on Sunday at noon as requested by deceased Russian dissident Alexei Navalny. Others chose to invalidate their vote by marking multiple boxes and adding anti-war messages or writing the names of opposition politicians, including Navalny himself. But the three days of voting unequivocally reassured Putin of the stability of his power and that Russians will do as they are told. Even at the highest levels, none of the three purported rivals dared to contest the prospect of victory.

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In Russian elections, a vote falsification occurred every second

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