“Day 24 is over,” Oleg Shein wrote in his blog just after midnight on April 8. “Tomorrow is Day 25. We are not on a suicide mission. Nor are we on a mission to make me the mayor. We are on a mission to secure fair elections that will put an end to the mafia system of government in Astrakhan.” The politician Oleg Shein and 21 of his supporters are on hunger strike — most of them since March 16. Shein ran for mayor of Astrakhan, a city of just over half a million people in southern Russia, near where the Volga River joins the Caspian Sea. On March 4, Shein lost with under 30 percent of the vote — and, like many independent candidates around the country, he claims the election was stolen.
Shein and his supporters compiled exhaustive documentation of alleged violations — among other things, they claim that at more than half of the city’s 203 precincts there was no vote count at all. They protested to the Central Election Commission and other authorities. And then they went on hunger strike.
It was a radical move but also a rational one. For three months, hundreds of thousands of Russians all over the country, including Astrakhan, had been protesting December’s rigged parliamentary elections. The Kremlin responded by placing Web cameras in all the polling stations for the March presidential vote. Activists protested that the cameras would be easy to fool and circumvent — but in Shein’s case a number of the violations seem actually to have been caught on camera (here is a site, in Russian, where a blogger has posted and analyzed footage from the precincts).
Full Article: Russian Politician on Hunger Strike – NYTimes.com.