Election fraud in Russia caught on video: ballot-stuffing, erasable ink and more
Screen grab of alleged ballot-stuffing.
Opposition leaders called for a second round of mass demonstrations in Moscow on Tuesday, to protest against last weekend’s parliamentary election amid widespread claims of irregularities favouring Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. Our Observer on the ground, who participated in Sunday’s election as an observer for an opposition party, described what he witnessed once the polls closed and counting began.
On Monday, President Dmitry Medvedev hailed the vote as "fair, honest and democratic" as official results revealed that the ruling United Russia party had lost a total of 77 seats in the State Duma, barely hanging on to its majority.
Although the results were largely interpreted as a sign of Putin and his party’s waning popularity, the prime minister – who hopes to resume his role at the helm of the country in Russia’s 2012 presidential elections – dismissed the poll’s significance, noting that United Russia still had enough of a majority to pass most legislation without seeking outside support.
Yet many who participated in Sunday’s elections claim support for Putin was grossly inflated by election fraud at all levels of the vote. These allegations were later backed up by European election monitors, who said the vote count was “characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation, including several serious indications of ballot box stuffing”.
As anger grew over the results, thousands turned out in Moscow on Monday evening to protest against the prime minister’s 12-year-reign, demanding a “Russia without Putin”. Police arrested at least 300 people at the demonstration, according to media reports.
To prove the elections were largely rigged, a number of voters took to social networking websites, where they posted a deluge of videos claiming to have captured incidents of fraud.
This video shows the head of a polling station falsifying ballots. According to media reports, the head of Moscow’s City Elections Commission confirmed the contents of this video, and announced that Russian authorities had opened an investigation into the incident.
This video purports to show a student engaging in “carrousel” or “merry-go-round” voting, when the same person votes several times at different polling stations in exchange for money. In the video, the cameraman explains that he was given the opportunity to make 4,000 rubles (around 96 euros) in exchange for casting 45 ballots for United Russia at multiple different polling stations.
On the day of the election, he and three other students meet a young man, who explains to them that they will flash a picture of a partially eaten apple to local election officials as a sign to show that they are there to cast multiple votes.
In the video, the student films himself as he receives instructions from his handler, who explains how to re-cast the same ballot multiple times. At 2’45”, the student films himself voting at multiple different polling places. However, he specifies in the video that he quit before completing the 45 votes he was ordered to do.
In this video, a representative of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) shows that the polling station’s ballot box is not up to standard by pulling at the sides where the box’s flaps are not securely taped shut.
A local election official replies by saying the box had been approved by the election commission. He continues to goad her, at one point exclaiming that the gap can be opened at least 10 cm wide. Eventually, tape is brought out to seal the box’s edges, but the LDPR representative and the local election official continue to argue.
This video claims to show that ballot boxes are already stuffed before voting even begins. In the clip, the cameraman reports that he can see stacks of votes at the bottom of the ballot box, five minutes before the polling station opens. He gives the time as five minutes to eight in the morning - he flashes his watch face to confirm this.
He then summons a local election official, and asks her if she can see the ballots sealed inside the box. She replies that she sees nothing. He then argues that everyone else can see them, and tries to convince security at the polling station to intervene. When the cameraman realises they don’t intend to help him, he says in a sarcastic tone “Great!”
“They were blatantly pretending to count the ballots”
Taras Fedoseev lives in Russia’s capital Moscow, where he is a student. Fedoseev participated in Sunday’s vote as an election observer for the social democratic party, A Just Russia.
I can’t say that the ballot count was fraudulent, because there was no ballot count to speak of. The other members of the election commission were blatantly pretending to count the ballots. They wouldn’t even let me close enough to see what was marked on them.
After the ‘count’ was finished, the election officials made up some figures – none of which corresponded to the actual numbers they had tallied earlier – and then marked them down as the official results. Despite my protests, they then packed up and left the polling station.
The whole count took a total of 30 minutes to complete. The election commission members, many of whom were school-teachers, were very rude. They belittled my questions and even made fun of me. When I tried to tell them that falsifying the results was wrong, they just looked at me said mockingly, ‘neener-neener-neener’.
I’m only 25-years-old. How can I tell myself that there is a future for me in this country, after I have seen all this? What conclusions should I draw from this experience? What should I hope for? How can I believe a president who claims that the official election results are fair? That they reflect the will of the voters? What should I do if an election I know to have been in was rigged and not invalidated? Should I just put up with it?”
Post written with freelance journalist Ostap Karmodi.