Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Putin Wins Fourth Term Amid Widespread Claims of Election Violations

Putin won the presidential elections in Russia handily last Sunday. However, the voting took place amid widespread claims of voter fraud.

Marisela Trevin

March 19, 2018
Facebook Twitter Share

Putin won the presidential elections in Russia handily last Sunday, with 76.67 percent of the votes cast after 99.81 percent of the ballots had been counted, with a turnout of 67.47 percent. However, the voting took place amid widespread claims of voter fraud and after weeks of a massive get-out-the-vote campaign launched by the government that led to reports of state workers and students being pressured to vote or herded to the polls. “Students, the military, teachers and other state employees have carried out the so-called elections one more time!” says activist Andrei, who was an observer of the elections in St. Petersburg.” The feeling during these elections is a mix of disgust, fear and despair.” By 7 p.m. Moscow time last Sunday, Golos, an independent monitoring group, reported 2,400 irregularities, including ballot stuffing, harassment and violence against observers, and incidents of election officials inflating ballot numbers.

Given the country’s economic stagnation and increased protests on the home front as well as rising tensions abroad — most recently in relation to the alleged poisoning of former agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter last March 4 in England — the government had been putting pressure on local officials to achieve a turnout of at least 70 percent, in order to show that Putin has a legitimate mandate. Voter turnout was a particularly important issue this year after a historically low turnout in the parliamentary elections of 2016. In addition, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who was barred from the race due to a past criminal conviction on what were widely seen as fabricated charges, had called his supporters to boycott the elections.

The cities’ streets were thus plastered with ads urging electors to head to the polls and administrative resources around the country were widely used to fund the campaign effort. The Central Electoral Commission received hundreds of complaints regarding the inappropriate use of such resources. Widespread reports were also received by monitoring groups like Golos from civil servants, students and private company employees in relation to compulsory voting and pressures to participate in the elections. Workers of Mosgortrans, a state-owned transportation company that employs more than 30,000 people, complained to the CEC that they were being forced to visit the polling stations. Employees of the Progress Rocket Space Centre stated that an order had been distributed by the heads of departments indicating that all those who do participate in the elections on March 18, 2018 will be dismissed and blacklisted. In other cases, incentives were provided for private employees and university students to head the polls, which included raffle prizes and awards for the best selfies taken at polling stations, such as iPhone Xs, cars and tickets to festivals organized to mark the anniversary of the Crimean annexation.

Opposition leaders like Navalny also denounced the use of a new voter registration system allowing voters to register in precincts other than their districts of residence. In practice, this apparently allowed voters to register in more than one precinct, without any reliable measures put in place to prevent multiple voting by a single elector. According to Navalny, this would lead to numerous cases of “carousel voting,” in which groups of voters are bussed around to vote multiple times.

In the weeks leading up to the elections, several incidents were reported of police raiding opposition headquarters, seeking documents that allow observers to visit polling stations. On election day itself, both Golos and observers of rival parties reported dozens of cases in which monitors were prevented from moving around the polling stations, harassed by police or even barred from entering the polling station. In Dagestan, police officers tried to arrest election observer Marat Ismailov for complaining against ballot stuffing, after which he was physically assaulted by a group of men. He stated that while this was going on, the polling station workers cranked up turnout from 30 percent to 55 percent. At Polling Station No. 1,126 in Makhachkala, security cameras showed a mob of young men entering the polling station and then violently dragging monitors out of sight of a ballot box after they had flagged several violations, including repeated ballot-stuffing.

In five regions or republics, including Crimea, where voters participated for the first time in Russian presidential elections after the annexation, Putin received more than 90 percent of the votes. He also received 70 percent of the vote in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where opposition to the government is traditionally strong.

Unsurprisingly, the opposition candidates, most of who are not seen as truly legitimate challengers, lagged behind Putin by a considerable margin. The second-most voted candidate was millionaire Pavel Grundinin, for the Communist Party, who garnered 11.79 percent of the vote, followed by ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovski, with 5.66 percent of the vote. Journalist Ksenia Sobchak, the third woman to ever participate in Russia’s presidential elections, received 1.67 percent of the vote, while historical liberal leader Grigori Yavlinkski gained the support of 1.04 percent of the voters.

After his victory, Putin proclaimed: “Our great national team has won” and “Everyone who voted today is part of our big, national team.” However, the political charade that were these elections can hardly conceal the fact that he won in the face of increasing mass protests clamoring for a “Russia without Putin.” Since 2011, when protesters took to the streets in massive numbers to protest election fraud, the government has grappled with increased opposition among the population. In the face of this growing unrest, Putin has intensified a crackdown against protesters and the Left, which has led to a series of arrests on fabricated charges and even to the torture of anarchists and anti-fascists in Penza and Nizhny Novgorod. The government has also stepped up efforts in recent years to promote conservative values among the population against “Western values,” while fuelling political tensions abroad with the annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in Syria. Nevertheless, in the context of the country’s economic decline and growing income inequality, there are clear and ever-increasing signs that the “Crimea effect” is gradually eroding and that the population’s patience is wearing thin.

Facebook Twitter Share

Europe

A Russian tank fires toward Kharkiv on the May 10 offensive against Ukraine.

Russia’s Offensive in Ukraine May Be a Turning Point in the War

Russia’s May 10 offensive in Ukraine may be a turning point in the dynamics of the war, and the specter of Ukraine’s defeat is exposing the cracks that divide the Western powers.

Claudia Cinatti

May 21, 2024

Nancy Fraser, Jacques Rancière, Silvia Federicci and many others say: Stop the Criminalization of Palestine Solidarity in France!

Anasse Kazib, a union activist and former presidential candidate, was recently interrogated by French anti-terrorist police. In this open letter, more than 800 prominent intellectuals and activists call to stand united against the criminalization of Palestine solidarity.

A mash-up of Macron over a palestinian flag and articles detailing the rising repression

Against the Criminalization of Opinion and in Defense of Our Right to Support Palestine: We Must Stand Up!

In France, the repression of Palestine supporters is escalating. A conference by La France Insoumise (LFI) has been banned; a union leader has been arrested and charged for speaking out for Palestine; court cases have increased against those who “condone terrorism”; and the state has stepped up its “anti-terrorism” efforts. In the face of all this, we must stand together.

Nathan Deas

April 23, 2024

Occupy Against the Occupation: Protest Camp in Front of Germany’s Parliament

Since Monday, April 8, pro-Palestinian activists have been braving Germany's bleak climate — both meteorological and political — to protest the Israeli genocide in Gaza, and the unconditional German support for it. 

Erik de Jong

April 20, 2024

MOST RECENT

Signs and banners at the picket line in front of the UC Santa Cruz in May, 2024. UC student workers are beginning a historic strike for Palestine, against genocide.

University of California Student Workers Begin Historic Political Strike against Repression and Genocide

This week, student and postdoctoral workers at the University of California began a historic strike in response to the brutal, violent repression of students, faculty, and staff protesting for Palestine. The action marks an important escalation of the labor movement’s struggle in defense of Palestine and the right to protest.

Olivia Wood

May 21, 2024
Protesters carrying Palestinian flags march on a street in front of a line of cops

Activists, Including Left Voice and Detroit Will Breathe Members, Arrested at Protest of Biden in Detroit, Free All Arrested and Drop All Charges

Detroit police brutally arrested activists who were protesting outside of Biden's speech to the NAACP.

Left Voice

May 19, 2024
Tents at the Rutgers University in NJ during the Palestine encampment in May, 2024

What the Movement for Palestine Can Learn from the Rutgers Encampment Deal

The Gaza solidarity encampment at Rutgers New Brunswick ended in a deal between the administration and a negotiations team at the camp. It’s been a highly controversial decision. The experience at Rutgers shows the need for a truly democratic, bottom-up fight for Palestine.

Jason Koslowski

May 17, 2024

Victory for the UAW at Volkswagen Plant in Chattanooga Represents a Potential Turning Point for Labor

Following a year of strong union struggles, a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee has voted to unionize with the UAW. This victory, in the traditionally anti-union South, shows that the terrain of labor struggle in the U.S. is shifting.

Joey Eichler

May 17, 2024