Russian Streets Quiet (So Far) as Complaints About Voting Mount
Complaints about fraud and voting irregularities are growing following Vladimir Putin's re-election, but it remains to be seen if protests or demonstrations will have any impact the results or the future of Russia.
Complaints about fraud and voting irregularities are growing following Vladimir Putin's re-election, but it remains to be seen if protests or demonstrations will have any impact the results or the future of Russia. Protests have already been planned for Moscow and other cities today, but no violence or other clashes have yet materialized.
Sunday's election saw an unprecedented number of election observers — both professional and amateur — fanning out around the country to monitor polling places, with most finding something not to like about it. Many of them caught irregularities on camera (some by polling place webcams ordered by Putin himself) and some reported intimidation. One opposition activists called a "grandiose scale of falsifications," but the BBC saying there have been reports of "forced voting" and multiple ballots. The complaints seemed to worse in rural areas, where the media is less able to report freely.
Most opponents declared the election a fraud, before it even began. Mikhail Gorbachev announced "These are not going to be honest elections, but we must not relent," even as he cast his own ballot. Even members of the Communist party, which has been mostly supportive of Putin's government, said the vote was unfair. In perhaps the most egregious example of "irregularity", Putin reportedly got 99% of the vote in Chechnya, the Caucasus region crushed by a Putin-led war after trying to declare independence (and the home a reported plot to assassinate him last week.)
RT, which is a government-funded news organizations, says the results mirrored the pre-election polling, even those conducted by independent groups. But that merely highlight the biggest issue of fairness, which is that no true opposition candidates appeared on the ballots. With the exception of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who had not party supporting him, all the other candidates had been beaten soundly by Putin in the past. There were no debates and little campaigning, many of his loudest detractors have long been shout out by intimidation or even jail.
Even if it does little to change the outcome, the fact that opposition is speaking up is still a positive sign. Putin may get away with a fraud, but he won't be completely unscathed. At the very least, he will have to answer quite a few promises to avoid angering even more citizens. One political analysts says that Putin is still popular among a lot of Russians, but "still there is a minority which considers his vision of the world to be obsolete."