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

No to Imperialist War: Ukrainians Gain Nothing from U.S., NATO, or Russian Troops

The situation on the Ukraine-Russia border is growing hotter and hotter, with the possibility of war becoming greater with each passing day — especially as U.S. imperialism and NATO have now decided to up the ante and mobilize their own forces. The reactionary objectives of both sides are coming into much sharper focus.

Scott Cooper

January 25, 2022

“Black Monday”: World’s Stock Markets Fall in Reaction to the Fed and Ukraine

Global stock markets took a serious tumble on Monday as fears over inflation and the conflict in Ukraine affected trading. It has been a bad year so far in capitalism’s network of casinos.

Eleanor Marx: A Punk in the 19th Century

Eleanor Marx, the youngest daughter of Karl Marx and herself a socialist activist, was born on this day in 1855. A citizen of the world, she resonated with Shelley and Ibsen and participated in the main theoretical and political debates of her time.

Celeste Murillo

January 16, 2022
Protesters carry a banner that says "Johnson Must Go, He Partied While People Died."

Why “Partygate” Threatens to Bring Down UK Prime Minister

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in the midst of a growing political crisis after it became clear that he and his aides violated Covid-19 regulations by having parties. These parties are a slap in the face to the working people of Britain, who were banned from seeing their families while the Prime Minister drank with his cronies.

Ezra Brain

January 16, 2022

MOST RECENT

Israel Continues Its Violent Displacement of Palestinians

2022 brings another year of Israeli violence against Palestinians. Solidarity with the movement to free Palestine from Zionist occupation must remain a priority of the Left.

Sam Carliner

January 26, 2022

Peruvian Fishermen Block Highway after Devastating Oil Spill

Hundreds of residents and fishermen living in the areas affected by the oil spill in Peru mobilized over the weekend demanding that the government immediately sanction Repsol, and require the company to compensate those affected by this ecocide.

Cecilia Quiroz

January 24, 2022
Image of Biden in front of coronavirus molecules, fires, and George Floyd mural.

Let Us Turn Our Anger at Biden Into Organization

Across the country, people are taking to social media to share their frustration with the Biden government. While this airing of anger is natural, it isn’t enough. We need to organize against the Biden administration.

Ezra Brain

January 23, 2022

Michigan Activists Picket Fake Abortion Clinic

On the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion across the United States, and with abortion rights under concerted attack in many states, a group of activists picketed a fake clinic in Michigan.

Jessica Prozinski

January 23, 2022