The run-up to Russia’s presidential election was dominated by a variety of themes, chief among them transparency. Yet despite the government’s “best” efforts to improve voting conditions, a deluge of online clips appear to confirm widespread fears of election irregularities.
After flagrant election fraud in the country’s December 4 parliamentary ballot gave rise to some of the largest protests Russia has seen in decades, the Kremlin sought to assuage fears of a repeat incident by shelling out a reported 361 million euros to install a network of webcams in polling stations as a safeguard against vote rigging.
Despite these steps toward transparency, election observers said the voting went far from smoothly. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) published a preliminary report on Monday stating that the vote count in almost one-third of polling stations had been assessed as “bad or very bad” due to irregularities. YouTube was also flooded by videos of alleged vote rigging, some, ironically, filmed by the very webcams the government had mounted to discourage this sort of behaviour.
Three mobile ballot boxes are brought back for counting in the city of Tula, about 200 kilometres south of Moscow. The boxes are used to make voting accessible for those who are not able to physically leave their homes. The first two are stuffed with votes, all for Putin. These were not supervised by an election observer. The third, which was supervised by an election observer, contains much fewer votes, for a variety of candidates.
Vans allegedly shuttle paid voters into Moscow from outside areas to vote, a popular practice known as a “carrousel”, which was also used during the country’s disputed January 4 parliamentary elections. When asked why they came to Moscow in such numbers, these people give conflicting explanations – one person says they’ve come for a wedding, another for a funeral and a third to go shopping.
Election observers watch a live webcam feed showing several men appearing to stuff dozens of ballots into an electronic ballot box during voting in Dagestan province.
After the voting has ended at a polling station in the region of Sverdlovsk, its staff feed a large number of ballots into an electronic ballot box. While it hasn’t yet been ruled out that they may be adding absentee ballots, many Russian Web users have found this suspicious.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin now looks set to retake the presidency for a third term, after declaring himself the winner on Monday. His victory came as no surprise to the country’s burgeoning opposition protest movement, which organised mass demonstrations Monday evening.