Stealing the Election

President Vladimir Putin addressed 200 foreign diplomats in Moscow today. After proclaiming that December 2nd State Duma elections will be fair and honest, Putin added that there should be no foreign interference. Meanwhile, the Moscow Times reported striking allegations from a senior Russian official that the vote is being rigged, and that the United Russia party was using underhanded means to falsify the election’s results. The interference, it seems, is coming from within Russia.

The official, an unidentified head of a regional electoral commission, revealed a number of plots that were underway, in a campaign by United Russia to double its standing in public polls.

The first involves changing the protocol of different polling stations, that is, the record of how many people showed up and who they voted for. Gaining access to a protocol to verify it after the election involves a difficult to obtain court order.

“During past Duma elections this was the most common way to falsify the results. We would do it in front of foreign observers because they didn’t understand anything on what was going on,” the official said.

Another method is a national campaign that is pressuring employees of the state, including teachers, doctors and bureaucrats, to bring ten people out to vote for United Russia. In this so-called “one to ten formula,” the state workers must give a list of the people to their superiors. Electoral officials will cross-check the list during the election, and missing names may result in blocked promotions or other forms of punishment.

The Central Electoral Commission and United Russia representatives denied the charges, although anecdotal accounts from around the country seem to confirm the story.

At Oryol State University, a student alleged that professors have pushed students to vote for United Russia, which was confirmed by the Institute for Social Problems, a nongovernmental organization in the region. A representative of the Institute added that local doctors and teachers were forced to sign a pledge to vote, with verbal explanation that it should be for United Russia. Similar accounts have been heard from both public and private employees across Russia.

Opposition groups, including the Other Russia have called the elections an absolute farce, and have felt increasing pressure against their campaigns. Law enforcement officials have seized campaigning literature and materials of the Other Russia as well as the Union of Right Forces (SPS). Boris Nemtsov, an SPS leader, told Ekho Moskvy radio that unidentified individuals claiming to represent the Union of Right Forces have called and harassed voters at odd hours of the night. Outside Yabloko headquarters in Pskov, an explosive device shattered windows and sent glass shards flying. Many opposition parties feel they have little legal recourse.

As Sunday approaches, it has become apparent that United Russia will do anything to win a majority in the parliament. Whatever the motivation, a major win will allow the Kremlin loyalist party and Putin complete control over the laws and legislature. Putin has said that a victory by United Russia will give him “moral authority” to remain at the head of Russia’s affairs. And with fewer electoral monitors and a cancelled mission by the OSCE, the world will not be watching as the election is stolen.

To read the complete article, visit the Moscow Times.