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Russia: Bloggers Expose Election Fraud Techniques

In 76 regions of Russia people went to voting stations on March 14 to cast their votes for local mayors and regional legislature representatives. The ruling party “United Russia” has won in most of those elections. However, the victory of the party in power wasn't absolute: in Irkutsk people preferred opposition candidate Viktor Kondrashov but this was the only case. Despite the increasing wave of protests (like in Irkutsk [RUS] itself, Kaliningrad, Moscow and others), “United Russia” managed to keep its dominance in all Russian regional legislatures as well as city administration offices.

One of the secrets of such “political stability” (besides state-controlled mass media) is a range of alleged numerous fraud techniques used both by party members and public officials during the elections. These elections were the first to show the power of Web 2.0. in uncovering them. Bloggers gathered evidence of fraud with their cell phone cameras and published them online.

Particularly members of the election observer association “Golos” [EN] (“A Voice”) were quite active in promoting election transparency and exposing fraud. The association installed a fraud hotline website “88003333350.ru” where everyone could post a fraud report. So far, 561 fraud cases have been noted.

Anti-Fraud Hotline, 88003333350.ru

Anti-Fraud Hotline, 88003333350.ru

Telephone Voting, Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk region
Blogger leonwolf made a capture of the local TV programme where a head of the regional election committee was inviting people to vote by using a phone line and without signing any papers (which is illegal). “You can just call, tell your passport details and if they match those in the database your vote will be counted,” the head of election committee said on TV.

Protocol Rewriting, Stanitsa Dinskaya, Krasnodar region.
Russian oppositional newspaper Novaya Gazeta posted a video [RUS], where an employee of the local election committee was allegedly rewriting the election protocol (a document presenting the final result of the election).

Vote For Relatives, Yekaterinburg
In the video below two women confess they were brought to the election station to vote for their parents (probably unable to get to the election station by themselves). Such procedure is legal if a person possesses an absentee ballot. But these two women, as well as the whole bus (can be seen on the background) of their “colleagues,” do not have it. And still they're allowed to vote. Not to mention that their transfer was paid by the regional government, as well as a sightseeing excursion after the election.

Mass Preliminary Vote, Ivanovo
The most popular fraud technique is a directed at a preliminary vote. It's been practiced among soldiers, policemen and sometimes students. In other words, regional authorities try to mobilize as many people as they can, especially if they have channels of pressure. For students such channel of pressure are various: grades, scholarships, ability to passing an exams, etc.

Blogger vitaliy-averin posted this video to illustrate such event:

This video shows a woman checking the absence of students, while these pictures depict a huge crowd at the college hall.

Ballot Insertion, Astrakhan
The video captures two people putting packs of ballots into the ballot box.

All these cases represent current situation with the Russian electoral system. The dominance of the ruling party is based on numerous illegal actions that result in the “expected” election results. At the same time, it shows the weakness of the political system that fails to conduct its political course without such anti-democratic and unlawful measures. But as the bloggers become more and more powerful and as the evidence of the fraud is being more efficiently distributed among Russian netizens, the government's failure to provide free and fair elections can become a real, not virtual, problem.

2 comments

  • This is obviously a good example of a “success” story — of the sort you were looking for in the other blog entry about the Moscow metro. It’s exposure of fraud, it’s all good. Likely even Twitter played a small role, too, but it’s not the main story — but it hasn’t been researched.

    HOWEVER, here’s where the blogosphere will come into its own with elections: when bloggers can perform lots and lots of exit polls, rapidly aggregate them, and call in the results centrally so that an alternative narrative is built from what people actually say as they leave the polls. Obviously this is a whole art and science, and obviously if this is attempted in any kind of major and powerful way, it will be thwarted in all the ways things can be thwarted in Russia.

    Even so, even small bloggers in small places can chip away at the official story and they show they are poised to do so.

  • […] While Russian authorities have often eyed formal civil society organizations with suspicion, and civic participation in such organizations has always remained low, platforms for online organizing have encouraged new forms of civic engagement and protestactivism.  Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites have served as vehicles for the provision of volunteer services and charity, and for overtly political campaigns against government corruption and election fraud. […]

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