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Thursday, 1 March 2012

Russian Elections - fairer than here or not?

Russia has launched a probe into alleged dirty tricks by the opposition ahead of the weekend’s presidential elections as critics of Vladimir Putin accused the authorities of foul play. The Russian investigative committee said it was investigating claims that the opposition had already filmed videos supposedly showing electoral fraud so activists can then denounce the elections as a sham.
Vladimir Putin, the Bailhache of Russia?

Meanwhile, a leading Russia NGO which Putin has accused of acting on behalf of the West catalogued a litany of violations in favour of his presidential campaign, including the wholesale use of the state’s resources.
The tit-for-tat exchange of accusations heightened tensions ahead of Sunday’s polls which Putin is expected to win but which the emboldened opposition has warned will be followed by street protests against his rule.
“Investigators have begun a preliminary check of video clips uploaded onto the Internet, dated March 4, 2012 and containing information about violation of electoral laws” during the vote, the Investigative Committee said. Investigators will look into the makers of the clips and decide whether or not to launch criminal probe, the statement said.

The statement comes just a day after Putin said that the opposition will themselves stuff ballot boxes in order to label the election as unfair. “They will stuff ballots themselves, monitor this and then report on it,” Putin said while meeting with supporters.

In comments that outraged the opposition, he also said that his opponents might try to “bump off” one of their leading members as a “sacred victim” to stoke protests as in the Arab World. One of the disputed clips available on YouTube offers a shaky footage of a voter complaining to the polling station committee that somebody has already cast a ballot for him. 

“My signature is here, as if I have already voted,” says a young man as the camera hovers over what looks like a list of voters. “This is preposterous!” Other people wave their hands in front of their faces and turn away.

Many Russian bloggers suspected the clips of being the products of pro-Kremlin youth groups, done in order to dilute and discredit real evidence of fraud. “It’s an interesting invention of Putin’s propaganda machine,” wrote Andrei Malgin, a political blogger and Putin critic.

But the NGO Golos (“Voice” or “Vote”), which Putin has singled out for criticism in the past, said that the campaign was skewed in his favour by allowing him to use the full apparatus of the state. “This is not a campaign between one candidate and others. It is between a main candidate and society which is protesting for fair elections,” the head of the analytical department of Golos, Alexander Kynev, told reporters.

Golos said that state television was indirectly campaigning for Putin by broadcasting “favourable reports under the pretext of following his professional activities” (as prime minister)”. The campaign, it said, was “deprived of normal political discussions on the fundamental problems of the country”, it added.

All the four candidates challenging Putin have to a greater or lesser degree kept their distance from the protest movement, whose leaders were either not allowed to register or are keeping their powder dry for the future. One activist suggested as a possible alternative to Putin, anti-corruption lawyer Alexei Navalny, took the chance to publish a major policy statement on ridding Russia of corruption in the daily newspaper Vedomosti.

“In Putin’s Russia, it is not talent and hard work that makes billionaires, but having the right friends down at the dacha (country house),” he said.

All I can say to the Russian voters is do you think that this doesn't happen everywhere? Look at the fraud which has surrounded the US elections, as a general rule if everyone who votes cannot fit in the same room then do not expect the elections to be free and fair.