Reporting to Russian President Vladimir Putin last September on the conduct of the State Duma elections, Ella Pamfilova, chair of Russia’s Central Election Commission, singled out Daghestan as one of the federation subjects where irregularities were most blatant and prevalent. Pamfilova elaborated on that assessment during meetings in Makhachkala two weeks ago with the republic’s leaders, journalists, and representatives of various political parties, publicly warning republic head Ramazan Abdulatipov that “we do not need inflated statistics” that undermine voters’ trust in the electoral process. Daghestan was one of several Russian regions where elections to the regional parliament and local councils were held concurrently with those to the State Duma. According to official statistical data, at all three levels voter turnout was significantly higher than for Russia as a whole, and candidates representing the ruling United Russia party won with a disproportionately large percent of the vote (88.86 percent in the State Duma election compared to 47.8 percent nationwide, and 75.51 percent in the regional parliamentary ballot.)
Defeated opposition candidates and civil-society activists who monitored the voting in Daghestan dispute those figures, however. They have adduced numerous specific instances of ballot-box stuffing, the removal of ballot boxes from electoral precincts before the polls closed, and the rewriting of protocols to increase the percentage of votes cast for United Russia candidates at the expense of other political parties. Albert Esedov, who heads the Daghestan chapter of the opposition party Yabloko, told the news portal Caucasian Knot that there was barely a single polling station where the vote could have been described as even remotely free and fair.
Public Chamber member Shamil Khadulayev for his part said that precinct chairmen removed ballot boxes from polling stations in Makhachkala before the votes had even been counted. “In its entire history, Daghestan has never witnessed anything so shameful,” Kavkaz.Uzel quoted him as saying.