Politics

Protests in Moscow over alleged vote rigging

By Joe Fenn

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Moscow following allegations of vote rigging in Russia’s parliamentary elections in December. This is the third rally since the vote.

Two different groups met in the Russian capital. One, the ‘For Honest Elections’ group, was protesting Putin’s power grip on Russia, claiming his party rigged the elections to gain a majority vote.

Another group, however, also marched through Moscow, the ‘anti-orange protest’, a group of supporters of Putin’s government. They met and held their own rally in another part of the city.

Despite freezing temperatures as low as -19°C, tens of thousands appear to have made it out for the protests, although figures vary greatly from different sources. According to the BBC’s Daniel Sandford, the Anti-Putin march numbered around 120,000 people, a similar number to previous marches. However, Moscow Police put the number at around only 23,000.

The Moscow police put the pro-Putin rally at around 90,000, but again figures vary, with other sources claiming the number was in fact much lower.

Some members of the ‘For Honest Elections’ group also claimed that not everyone at the Pro-Putin marches was there of their own free will. One protester said “Some of my friends were forced by their employers to go to the Pro-Putin rally, otherwise they would be fired.”

The organisers of the Anti-Putin protests are demanding a re-run of December’s election and encouraging people to vote against Putin in the next election in March. They do not expect to be able to stop the president from winning the election, they said, but they aim to put pressure on the government.

The marches against the government are a response to supposed vote rigging in December’s election.

Pavel Vasiliyev, an observer at polling stations in December, explained what he saw in an interview with the BBC.

According to Mr Vasiliyev, the chairwoman of the commission of the polling station he was volunteering at was seen filling in the final tally of votes on a ‘protocol’ form. However, he says the woman then disappeared for three hours with the ballot papers.

When she returned, she brought with her a new protocol which counted 80 votes more for Mr Putin’s United Russia party and 20 votes less for the other four major parties.

Mr Vasiliyev, according to the BBC, still has both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ protocols; powerful evidence of the vote rigging.

“The system really disregards, opposes and … cheats on the voter” he claimed. “I would like to see things change, I really would.”

A young couple in Moscow also explains how they were allowed to vote unfairly in another system know as the ‘carousel’.

This allows certain voters to visit numerous polling stations and cast votes at each one. Voters are given an apple sticker to put in their passport for the vote. Then, according to the couple, this sticker could be shown in the polling station and officials would ‘know what to do’.

The couple described the system as absurd. “One school had three polling stations and we voted at all three” they said. “It was all very weird”.

Despite difficulties in establishing the overall effect of the fraud, one statistician in Russia, Sergei Shpilkin, claims he has worked out the figures.

After the vote, the official result for Putin’s United Russia was 49.3% of the vote. However, Mr Shpilkin claims that the honest result would have been between 34 and 39%.

Even one of the official polling agencies in Russia, Leveda, conceded that the result was tainted by fraud to an extent of around five or six per cent. In Moscow they estimated around 14 per cent fraud.

If either of Mr Shpilkin’s or Leveda’s estimates is correct, Mr Putin should not hold a majority.

In response, Mr Putin says he cannot rule out that ‘administrative resources’ had affected the results, but insists that this varied greatly from region to region.

 

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