In a stinging rebuke to the authorities and United Russia, election observers said Monday that weekend municipal elections in a provincial town had been too tarnished by fraud to be considered legitimate. The Ryazan region town of Kasimov had turned into a key battleground for the political opposition ahead of Sunday’s vote for the municipal legislature, and activists had hoped to ensure a fair election in this corner of the country following disputed national elections in December and March. According to preliminary results, United Russia won nearly 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, matching its local result in State Duma elections in December, and secured 13 seats in the 20-seat legislature. But monitors said they witnessed numerous offenses, including ballot stuffing, at the town’s 22 polling stations. “There were nearly two serious violations at every station. … The number of violations per voter was unprecedented,” said Sofia Ivanova, regional coordinator of the election watchdog Golos. Pro-United Russia ballot stuffers were caught in the act in at least two polling stations, and observers discovered stacks of votes for the ruling party at several others, she said by telephone.
Konstantin Ivanov, an activist with the Union of Russian Observers, said the fraud was as bad as it was in December’s Duma elections, if not worse, and he speculated that 20 percent of United Russia’s official tally was fake. “They weren’t elections. I don’t know what the devil they were,” he said by telephone.
A secret poll commissioned by the government shortly before the election put support for United Russia at about 29 percent, said Yabloko’s Anatoly Kivva, who ran in Sunday’s election. Observers have filed complaints with the regional elections commission, which has yet to officially recognize the election results, and Kivva promised that Yabloko would do everything it could to see ballot stuffers brought to justice.