The 2011 parliamentary elections were
reported to have seen a lot of falsifications and violations which
resulted in the public unrest that turned into a series of rallies held
in central Moscow in support for honest elections. The alleged political
fraud during the parliamentary elections encouraged civil activism
among some Russians who decided to volunteer as observers during the
2012 presidential elections.
Kira Tverskaya served as an observer from Golos, a grassroots
organization aiming to combat vote fraud during the elections. “We had
to visit at least eight polling stations,” Tverskaya said. “What we had
to do was to keep track of possible violations ranging from barring
observers from doing their job at the polling stations to carousel
practices. Actually we had to gather the information about the number of
voters at a polling station, including those who voted from home and
voters without permanents residence registration. Nearly every polling
station we visited recorded between 2,000 and 3,000 votes.”
When asked about violations at the polling stations, Tverskaya said:
“I didn’t witness that any observers had been prevented from moving
along the station, videotaping and taking pictures. But nevertheless
some officials asked us to fill out a permission form to do recording at
the poll. In addition, we saw some suspicious voters, young people who,
as a matter of fact, didn’t have the right to vote at the polling
station because they don’t have the permanent residence registration and
they looked pretty nervous while voting which seemed to me a bit
Lesya Ryabtseva from the Russian State University for Humanities
(RGGU) was an observer at polling station 1210. She was confused by the
fact that some officers at her polling station gave two ballots to some
voters who wanted to vote for their relatives. “Although the elections
seemed to be honest I was a bit surprised when a woman came to the poll
and said that she wanted to vote for her husband,” Ryabtseva said. “And
the officer of the polling election commission gave her two ballots. It
looked pretty weird to me.”
Likewise, she was a bit surprised when 18 employees of a company
located not far from the polling station voted together although they
didn’t have the right to vote there. As the officers of the election
commission explained, the leadership of the company asked the permission
for them to vote at this polling station because they couldn’t
interrupt the working process in the firm, Ryabtseva said.
While observers were tracking down the probable violations, young Russian voters were casting their ballots.
“I voted for Vladimir Putin because he proved to be a strong
leader who fulfilled his pledges,” said Maksim Rudnev, 23, a student at
Russia’s Academy of Law and Governance. “His words and deeds are never
at variance. It was he who brought stability in the country and
recovered Russia’s low profile”
“I elected Gennady Zyuganov from the Communist Party, because I find
him the most eligible person from the Russian opposition who proposes
the most adequate program and ideas,” said Ilya Overchenko, 21, a
history major at Moscow State Regional University.
Artem Avtandilov, studying engineering in Kazan State Technical
University voted for Mikhail Prokhorov. “Although he is not
well-experienced enough in big politics I think that he is the only
candidate who may bring positive changes into our inefficient
But some students didn't vote at all. For example, 24-year-old Airat
Bagadtiunov, a student at the Higher School of Economics, refused to
vote. “I couldn’t find any worthy candidates for Russia’s presidency,”
he said. “Of course, there were some compromise options among them but,
nevertheless, I didn’t vote.”
Likewise, Tatyana, a 21-year-old journalism student from Moscow State
University decided not to vote because she found the election results
too predictable. Tatyana doesn’t think that she will be able to change
the situation. “Everything we witnessed during Election Day was nothing
but well-orchestrated theatrical show,” she said. “Every candidate plays
his own role on the stage.”
Exit polls: Putin wins Russia's presidential vote
By 22 hours 34 minutes ago
(AP) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Sunday claimed victory in
Russia's presidential election before tens of thousands of cheering
supporters, even as the opposition and independent observers insisted
the vote had been marred by widespread violations.
a massive rally just outside the Kremlin, Putin thanked his supporters
for helping foil plots aimed at destroying Russia, sounding a
nationalistic theme that has resonated with his core supporters.
have promised that we would win and we have won!" he shouted to the
flag-waving crowd, which responded with shouts of support. "We have won
in an open and honest struggle."
tallied 58-59 percent of Sunday's vote, according to exit polls cited
by state television. Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov received
about 18 percent, according to the survey, and the others — nationalist
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, socialist Sergei Mironov and billionaire Mikhail
Prokhorov — were in single digits.
vote results from the far eastern regions where the count was already
completed seemed to confirm the poll data. With about 30 percent of all
precincts counted, Putin was leading the field with 64 percent of the
vote, the Central Election Commission said.
thousands of claims of violations made by independent observers and
Putin's foes are confirmed, they would undermine the legitimacy of his
victory and fuel protests. The opposition is gearing up for a massive
rally in downtown Moscow on Monday.
elections are not free ... that's why we'll have protests tomorrow. We
will not recognize the president as legitimate," said Mikhail Kasyanov,
who was Putin's first prime minister before going into opposition.
Russia's leading independent elections watchdog, said it received
numerous reports of "carousel voting," in which busloads of voters are
driven around to cast ballots multiple times.
Navalny, one of the opposition's most charismatic leaders, said
observers trained by his organization also reported seeing extensive use
of the practice.
of widespread vote fraud in December's parliamentary election drew tens
of thousands to protest against Putin, who was president in 2000-2008
before moving into the prime minister's office due to term limits. They
were the largest outburst of public anger in post-Soviet Russia and
demonstrated growing exasperation with massive corruption, rising social
inequality and tight controls over political life under Putin.
has dismissed the protesters' demands, casting them as a coddled
minority of urban elites working at Western behest to weaken Russia. His
claims that the United States was behind the opposition protests spoke
to his base of blue-collar workers, farmers and state employees, who are
suspicious of Western intentions after years of state propaganda.
is a brave and persistent man who can resist the U.S. and EU pressure,"
said Anastasia Lushnikova, a 20-year old student who voted for Putin in
the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.
gave permission to Putin's supporters to gather just outside the
Kremlin walls, and tens of thousands flooded the big square immediately
after the vote ended. Some participants of the demonstration, including
employees of state organizations, said they were forced by the
management to attend it under the threat of punishment.
authorities denied the opposition's bid to hold the rally at the same
place Monday, but allowed them to gather at a nearby square.
has given generous social promises during his campaign and also
initiated limited political reforms in a bid to assuage public anger.
His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday that Putin will seek to
modernize the nation's political and economic system, but firmly ruled
out any "Gorbachev-style liberal spasms."
Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, has become increasingly
critical of Putin's rule. "These are not going to be honest elections,
but we must not relent," he said Sunday after casting his ballot.
has promised that the vote would be fair, and the authorities
apparently have sought to take off the steam out of the protest movement
by allowing more observers to monitor the vote. Tens of thousands of
Russians, most of them politically active for the first time, had
volunteered to be election observers, receiving training on how to
recognize vote-rigging and record and report violations.
said monitors have recorded fewer obvious violations than during the
December election, but they still believe that violations are extensive.
This time, election officials are using more complicated and subtle
methods, said Golos deputy director Grigory Melkonyants.
to data based on official figures from polling stations attended by
Golos observers, Putin still garnered some 55 percent of the vote, while
Zyuganov won about 19 percent.
told reporters after the polls closed that he will not recognize the
vote, calling it "illegitimate, unfair and intransparent."
campaign chief Ivan Melnikov claimed that the authorities set up
numerous additional polling stations and alleged that hundreds of
thousands of voters cast ballots at the ones in Moscow alone in an
apparent attempt to rig the vote.
said on Channel One television after the vote that authorities kept his
observers away from some polling stations and were beaten on two
Dmitriyeva, a Duma deputy from Just Russia party, tweeted that they
were witnessing "numerous cases of observers being expelled from polling
stations" across St. Petersburg just before the vote count.
Moscow and other big cities, where independent observers showed up en
masse, election officials in Russia's North Caucasus and other regions
were largely left to their one devices. The opposition said those
regions have experienced particularly massive vote rigging in the past.
Web camera at a polling station in Dagestan, a Caucasus province near
Chechnya, registered unidentified people tossing ballot after ballot
into boxes. The Central Election Commission quickly responded to the
video, which was posted on the Internet, saying the results from the
station will be invalidated.
cameras were installed in Russia's more than 90,000 polling stations, a
move initiated by Putin in response to complaints of ballot stuffing
and fraudulent counts in December's parliamentary elections.
was unclear Sunday to what extent the cameras would be effective in
recording voting irregularities or questionable counts. The election
observation mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe noted skepticism in a report on election preparations.
"This is not an election ... it is an imitation," said Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition leader.
despite the increased resentment against Putin's rule among the rising
middle class, opinion polls ahead of the vote had shown Putin positioned
to win easily. He presided over significant economic growth and gave
Russians a sense of stability that contrasted with the disorder and
anxiety of the 1990s, when Boris Yeltsin led Russia's emergence from the
wreckage of the Soviet Union.
Boris Nikolayevich, life was simply a nightmare, but, you know, now
it's OK. Now it's good, I'm happy with the current situation," said
51-year-old Alexander Pshennikov, who cast his ballot for Putin at a
Moscow polling station.
police presence was heavy throughout the city on Sunday. There were no
immediate reports of trouble, although police arrested three young women
who stripped to the waist at the polling station where Putin cast his
ballot; one of them had the word "thief" written on her bare back.
Heintz, Lynn Berry, Maria Danilova, Nataliya Vasilyeva, Mansur
Mirovalev and Sofia Javed in Moscow and Sergei Venyavsky in
Rostov-on-Don contributed to this report.