“Putin’s power is weakened”, “Communists gain seats in the Duma” screamed the headlines on Monday.
Is THAT the story? No.
Not even close. Unfortunately for Russia’s young democracy, the real story is far more sensational. The real story is that the electoral process was interfered with in the most basic way.
1. Not with electronic voting
2. Not with ballot stuffing
3. Not with forged absentee ballots
4. Not with butterfly ballots
5. Not with voter intimidation
6. Not with robo-calls with misleading information
7. Not with counts and re-counts
8. Not with complex legal arguments and objections
9. Not with gerrymandering voting districts
Instead, in a typical Russian-style substantive elegance and concurrent clumsiness, they simply changed the results. What?!? “How is that possible”, one may say? Well, luckily, in the world of social media, pictures and video, several people involved posted exact photo/video accounts of what happened. Unfortunately, most of them are in Russian, so here is a rough translation of one. I certainly won’t do it justice and will paraphrase most of it, the Author is Dmitriy Finnikov:
1. I decided to participate as a voting commission observer in my home district #6 in Moscow, for Yabloko Party
2. I attended meetings that prepared observers and informed them on the process. Attended twice since I like to be prepared.
3. I arrived for the election, met the Director, Deputy and members of the District voting commission
4. All preparations were done correctly, but started a little late
5. Voting went along fine, with first time voters receiving chocolate candy from the head of the Commission.
6. After voting, everything was done according to protocol, votes were counted, tabulated and a summary sheet was signed by all members of the commission. Yabloko: 134, Communists: 202, United Russia: 128.
7. I asked the commission director to give me a copy of the Voting Summary Sheet.
8. Commissioner said he will make a copy, and left with both Voting Summary Sheet originals.
9. Commissioner never came back. Nobody could say where he was. He answered his cell phone and each time lied saying that he will be right back.
10. I learned that the Commissioner of the other district that voted in the same building as us, was also missing in an identical situation.
11. I was worried, because without the final meeting to confirm the Voting Summary Sheets, the results were illegal and I did not have a copy of the sheets. I created another copy of the Voting Summary Sheets and asked all members of the committee to sign it, but only two did.
12. It’s close to 4 AM, and the assistant Committee Director offered to take the vote envelopes over to the central Voting Committee. I refused to let him do that. Soon, all observers but him left.
13. At 7 AM a driver showed up and attempted to take the vote envelopes. I told him that he can not do that, as it is against the law until the results are certified on the spot by the committee.
14. At 8 AM two policemen showed up, and forced me aside, so that the deputy Committee Director could take the envelopes and put them in the car. I followed in my car and got to the Central District Committee first!
15. I made my way into the Central Committee meeting room right behind the Deputy carrying the envelopes with votes, and asked the members why the Director left without providing me a copy and conducting the meeting to certify the vote. I am given non-sensical answers, while everybody is giving each other blank stares. Meanwhile, the ballot envelopes with still-accurate counts are being stuffed into a black bag right in front of me.
16. I saw on the wall right behind the person stuffing the the real ballots into a garbage bag, the combined voting results, which showed very different tallies for my district: Yabloko: 4, Communists: 29, United Russia: 515. (see table below). The video is priceless, as it shows this entire scene in all it’s glory.
17. I was forced out by security. I found myself crying, thinking about that 18 year old girl who got the chocolates for voting for the first time, but whose vote was simply erased.
I know that this probably didn’t make you cry, like it made me, since I didn’t tell the full story with all the heart-wrenching details. But I hope it at least makes you mad, like it did me. Similar stories are repeated over and over by other observers. Why do I think this is true and that we should believe the author? Well, because there are many like him, the video is pretty convincing and this is what I would EXPECT to happen, having lived in Russia and knowing how things work there. It is the foundation of how communists held on to power for as long as they did!
So, is Russia a “flourishing democracy where the communists are gaining while Putin’s party is losing ground”? You be the judge!
Summary Table: Voting Results Comparison for Moscow’s District #6.
|Party||Actual Results||Reported Results|
|Putin’s United Russia||128||18.4%||515||73.9%|