Russian election monitors reported a series of irregularities as voting began in the country’s parliamentary elections on Sunday. Those complaints will test the government’s pledge to block the kind of electoral fraud that triggered street protests five years ago against president Vladimir Putin. Non-governmental election monitoring movement Golos said it had received 164 reports by phone and 335 reports via an online platform of rule violations or suspicious incidents. The largest number of complaints came from Moscow, followed by the Stavropol region in southern Russia and Altai region in southern Siberia. In Barnaul, capital of the Altai region, civil rights and opposition activists observed people being instructed to vote using ballots of pensioners who were not going to turn up — an alleged example of so-called cruisers or carousel voting. “They have little stickers on their passports,” said Alexander Lebedev, a municipal deputy of the A Just Russia party who posted videos of what he said were the preparations for illegal voting on Twitter.
Barnaul is expected to be one of the more hotly contested constituencies. Here liberal opposition candidate Vladimir Ryzhkov has complained of massive irregularities on the part of his rival from the ruling United Russia party throughout the campaign. Other activists uploaded videos of police detaining several men and listening to Mr Lebedev explain how the alleged illegal scheme would work.
Local officials said they had not been able to verify violations so far. “No facts of violations have been established in any of the polling stations which were named on the internet,” said Irina Akimova, head of the regional election commission. She added that members of her commission had examined the allegations on the ground.
But Ella Pamfilova, chairperson of the central election commission, said election results could be invalidated if a top-level investigation found proof. “We are now closely investigating the situation in the Altai region,” she said. “If the facts about which certain radio stations have been talking since this morning are confirmed, very serious steps will be taken, including opening criminal cases and considering the possibility of declaring the results invalid.”