On March 18, 2018, Russians reelected President Vladimir Putin by a huge margin. Official reports say that 67 percent of voters went to the polls and that 76 percent of those supported the incumbent. This result comes as zero surprise, and media coverage has focused on the lack of true opposition candidates and allegations of ballot-stuffing. But there is more to this story. About 800,000 poll workers at more than 95,000 polling stations across Russia delivered basic administrative services for this election. This army of street-level bureaucrats verified voter identities, issued/counted the ballots and established the voting tallies at each precinct. How did Sunday’s election look, behind the scenes? We tend to assume that poll workers, whether they are in South Dakota or the Northern Caucasus, are professional and independent. Put simply, we expect poll workers to leave aside their political biases and ensure that voting takes place according to fair and impartial procedures.
Articles about voting issues in the Russian Federation.
As expected, Vladimir Putin was reelected Sunday with a reported 76 percent of the vote, outpacing his nearest competitor by more than 60 points. The next morning, Ella Pamfilova, head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, claimed that the contest was one of Russia’s cleanest, with about half as many complaints of irregularities as in the 2012 presidential contest. But irregularities were still numerous. As Russians filed in and out of polling stations Sunday, reports and videos of attacks on election monitors and blatant ballot stuffing littered social media feeds. The videos came from Moscow, the Far East, Chechnya and Dagestan — among other places. So blatant were some of these acts that the results from several of these stations were annulled.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said on Monday there had been no real choice in Russia’s presidential election and complained it had been marked by unfair pressure on critical voices. “Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice,” the OSCE said in a statement, adding that restrictions on fundamental freedoms, as well as on candidate registration, had limited the space for political engagement. The OSCE gave its verdict after President Vladimir Putin won 76.69 percent of vote in a landslide re-election victory on Sunday, extending his rule over the world’s largest country for another six years. Putin’s critics, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was barred from running in the race, said there had been widespread fraud and that observers had seen people being bussed to polling stations by their own employers.
Days before Russia’s presidential elections, police are trying to seize documents that give activist observers access to polling stations and a leading elections watchdog has unexpectedly seen its office lease revoked. “You shouldn’t hold this event here or you’ll have trouble,” Roman Udot, a representative for the independent Golos Association elections watchdog, said his landlord was told by police before they ripped up the contract. The “event” was a call centre to field reports of election violations. The government denies interfering. Russia’s short, frustrating and listless presidential campaign is grinding to its inevitable conclusion. Even Vladimir Putin hardly seems enthused, devoting less than two minutes to a final campaign speech in Crimea, the peninsula he annexed from Ukraine in 2014 to domestic acclaim and international condemnation.
Vladimir Putin, Russia’s longest-serving ruler since Joseph Stalin, surprised no one with his landslide re-election on Sunday. While his victory, in which he claimed 73.9 percent of the vote according to state-run exit polls, was a foregone conclusion, the Kremlin was reportedly anxious about turnout, and conducted an elaborate, well-financed get-out-the-vote campaign. For an authoritarian regime in which election results and turnout are pre-ordained, such concerns may seem odd. But even in Russia’s “managed democracy,” appearances still matter, and the Kremlin needed to present believably high levels of support to ensure Putin’s mandate. Shortly after polling centers closed on Sunday night, Putin appeared to be on target to achieve the desired 65 percent turnout. But even more important for Putin is that this election marked the culmination of his nearly two-decades-long project to control information in Russia and manipulate Russian society. Now, Putin has proven beyond any doubt that the Russia he has built is his and his alone.
Russians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in what was more a referendum on giving President Vladimir V. Putin another six years in office than an actual competitive race. With cold winter temperatures covering the vast, continental country, more than 110 million people were eligible to vote from the distant Kamchatka peninsula in the Far East to the European enclave of Kaliningrad, where the last polls were due to close at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Gone were the Soviet days when there was just one name on the ballot and the winner habitually harvested 99 percent of the vote. The spirit was similar, however, with pictures of Mr. Putin and his campaign slogan, “Strong president, strong Russia,” blanketing the country.
In recent months, billboards around Russia have been advertising the coming presidential elections with the colours of the Russian flag and the message “Our country, our president, our choice”. Millions will vote on March 18th, but they will not have much choice at all. Vladimir Putin, who has already ruled for longer than any Russian leader since Stalin, has managed to get rid of any credible competition and there is no doubt he will emerge victorious and embark on another six-year term. The fall of communism more than a quarter-century ago was supposed to usher in a new democratic Russia. So how is it that Mr Putin can triumph every time?
Vote in Russia’s presidential election this Sunday or get hyper-inflation and Africans in the army. That is the surreal message in a viral video meant to encourage people to vote in an election which polls show Vladimir Putin is on track to comfortably win. While Putin has dominated the country’s political landscape for the last 18 years, the Kremlin and its allies are still pulling out all the stops to ensure high voter turnout. The clip, which has drawn accusations of racism and homophobia in some quarters, has been publicized by state TV and watched six million times online. Alexander Kazakov, a pro-Putin political consultant who circulated the clip, said he wanted to ensure Putin’s win was utterly convincing. “Only then will Putin be able to conduct the best domestic and foreign policy,” he said.
“The average length of a good tyranny is a decade and a half, two decades at most. When it’s more than that, it invariably slips into a monstrosity.” So wrote Russian-American émigré, essayist, and poet (and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature) Joseph Brodsky in 1980. With the elections this Sunday in Russia, President Vladimir Putin will extend his 18-year rule by another six — squarely in monstrosity territory. Of course, much of what Brodsky predicted for such monstrous regimes — “the kind of grandeur that manifests itself in waging wars or internal terror, or both” — has already come to pass in Putin’s Russia. Putin’s authoritarianism has been ahead of schedule. Indeed, Putin cemented his rise to power on a mixture of war (in Chechnya) and terror (a series of apartment bombings, possibly orchestrated by Putin himself and his FSB colleagues). His rule has been perpetuated by persistent violence — foreign and domestic — deployed as a political tool. We have witnessed in it the killing of journalists, democrats, and those who have sought to hold the state accountable (Politkovskaya, Estemirova, Klebnikov, Magnitsky, Nemtsov, and many others); we have seen the invasion and occupation of neighboring states and the violent backing of fellow strongmen (in Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria).
In the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, political activists are raffling a car, while in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, the prize is an iPhone X. In Berdsk, the best selfie will be plastered across a billboard. The catch? To qualify for a chance to win, Russians must turn out to vote. There is little doubt that Vladimir Putin will win a fourth term as president in the election next Sunday, making him the first Kremlin leader since Stalin to serve two decades in power. But in an uncontested political field, the Kremlin is worried about turnout. And with concerns that Putin’s appeal alone may not be enough to get out the vote, officials across the country are experimenting with raffles, competitions and the occasional referendum – like one in Volgograd that asks voters whether they want to change time zones – all in an effort to ensure Putin wins with greater support than in 2012.