Russia: Voting in Grozny

According to the Central Election Commission's data (RUS), over 99 percent of Chechnya‘s 580,918 eligible voters showed up for the Dec. 2 parliamentary election – and 99.36 percent of them voted for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

According to Reuters, “this was the highest vote for Putin anywhere in Russia, where overall turnout was 62 percent and just over 64 percent of votes were cast for United Russia.”

Journalist Timur Aliev – LJ user timur-aliev – wasn't just a voter in this election; he also ran as a candidate for the Union of Right Forces (SPS), a party that came in third in Chechnya, receiving 449 votes (0.08 percent).

Below is Timur's somewhat surreal account (RUS) of what it took to exercise his right to vote in Chechnya's capital Grozny.

The problem with voting for me was that I lived at one address, but was registered at my old address – in the building where the federals from the commandant's office live now. In other words, it was not clear to me where my current polling station was.

I took a taxi, and we began our search. The first obstacle was that the central street was blocked and it was impossible to get to “[Minutka]” directly from the city center. And so we spent about 20 minutes driving around side streets, before we reached my home neighborhood.

We didn't find the polling station where it used to be – and it wasn't at the children's hospital or the prosecutor's office, either. We tried to drive slowly, looking for some [local election committee]'s sign. But in vain.

We tried to search in another part of the neighborhood. We got to Lenin [Avenue] again. School #46 was our next stop. No one there as well. But the guard suggested that we drive over to school #25.

So we went to the very beginning of Lenin [Avenue] – that's basically the city's edge. There was nothing there, a wasteland where the school used to be – and I didn't even know about it, been too long since I was in this area last. We asked the passerby where school #25 was. They waved – and we, following their directions, drove along the narrow, dirty streets. Then we found it – the school was located in the former kindergarten building. And the polling station was there, too.

Inside, there were surprisingly many people – about 7-10 people were crowding around the table with voters’ lists. Three of them had arrived right before us, in a Volga. Later I realized they were observers from the CPRF [Communist Party], they were there to let the election committee's officials know that they'd need the protocols, but they were voting there as well.

I glanced through the list of streets whose residents were supposed to vote at this very polling station. My street wasn't there, but the neighboring ones were. I asked the people sitting at the table. One of them turned out to be the head of the [local election committee], and he recognized me and said: “a-a, he is a frequent guest at our TV.” He asked if I were a lawyer – because of my very knowledgeable performance during the debates – and wished me good luck, saying – we need people like this at the Duma. I gave him a vague ‘hmm’ in response.

They handed down the lists to me, so that I could search for my name in them. But I wasn't there. Moreover, of all the buildings that used to stand on our street, there was only one present on the list – the first one. The rest of the people weren't listed. I asked them where they got these data from. From the administration, they'd given it to us, replied one of the committee's members. That is, what happened is that the residents of only one building out of 45 on our relatively short streets had been added to the voters’ lists. Even if barely anyone lived there [physically] – but these people hadn't changed their registration addresses, hoping to receive compensation, and they all still live in Grozny – I had seen practically all of them. But still, they were not listed.

Finally, they entered me on the additional voters’ list – I was #15 there. I filled in the ballot, and we moved on (but that's a different story).

After some time, as we were driving through “Minutka,” I saw yet another man who had voted at our polling station. He was waiting for a [bus] to take him to the center, which meant that he, just like myself, had come over specifically for the vote.

Here's what's interesting – even if I still lived at my old address, would I feel like searching so intensely for my polling station, considering I didn't have a stake in it and it was a 40-minute walk in the mud away (in the Soviet times, one could get there using public transportation – about five stops with one transfer). I doubt it.

But it turns out people have not been deterred – judging by the official results, they all showed up for the vote. Though, to be fair, it should be noted that with the way they were recording voters in the ruined Grozny, when it's not clear where anyone lives, it wouldn't be an impossible thing to show a 200-percent turnout, by including those additional voters’ lists, too.

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