Two questions were asked after the recent Russian elections. Firstly, were Vladimir Putin’s tears real? And secondly, was the election rigged? According to the experts, there are several ways of cheating to win an election. ‘It all depends on how you define electoral fraud,’ said Dr Sarah Birch, reader in politics at Essex University. ‘There are so many rules and regulations that to violate one of those is fairly easy, whether it’s a candidate in a local election overspending on their campaign by £5, or someone going to the polling station and saying they’re someone else. ‘It can also be the manipulation of voters – such as media campaigns that are overtly biased in favour of one contestant, as we found in Russia, where the media gave much more attention to Putin than to the other candidates. Alternatively, there’s manipulation of the vote, such as vote buying or intimidation.’
And it is a combination of all these forms of fraud that Mr Putin is being accused of. Video footage of men sliding vote after vote into an electronic ballot box at a polling station in Dagestan has surfaced, signifying that far cruder tactics are at play than just a biased media. There is also photo evidence of ‘carousel voting’. This is when people vote repeatedly throughout the day after being taken from one polling station to the next.
Cruder still was the result in Chechnya – a region that has seen violence and human rights abuses at the hands of Russian authorities. The region managed a seemingly impossible turnout of 107 per cent, with 99.82 per cent voting in favour of Mr Putin. In Chechnya, the Communist opposition leader Gennady Zyuganov received a single vote.