Fraudulent Votes for Putin Abound in Chechnya
While there were charges of fraud in Russia’s presidential election Sunday, officials throughout most of the country appeared to be on notice to avoid the appearance of cheating in obvious ways like ballot stuffing. But some here seem not to have gotten the memo.More
At Precinct 451, members of the local electoral commission set about counting a pile of glistening white ballots. “Putin, Putin, Putin,” they muttered. “Good, more Putin.”
Vladimir V. Putin did well in Chechnya, a place that he virtually declared war on after becoming president in 1999, and whose people have suffered grievous human rights abuses at the hands of Russian security forces. The final tally: Putin, 1,482 votes; Gennady A. Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader, one vote.
This result was in itself statistically improbable. But even more difficult for the teachers who had been drafted onto the electoral commission to explain was the turnout: there were only 1,389 people registered in the precinct, meaning that the turnout was 107 percent.
“Look, something is not adding up here,” said Milana Atlanova, the head of the commission, growing increasingly confused.
Analysts of Russian elections say the North Caucasus region is a place where violations of election law are uniquely brazen, from a combination of top-down pressure, cultural factors and, in Chechnya, a fearful milieu of police intimidation.
Fraud that to a Western eye seems outrageous is tolerated and never followed up on in courts. It is also rarely seen by independent election observers, who do not monitor Chechnya for safety reasons.
The flagrant fraud witnessed here in Sunday’s election did not greatly affect the outcome nationally, in that the North Caucasus region is home only to 6 percent of Russia’s voters. But it shows the deep tolerance of undemocratic practices that persists in Russia, particularly in places beyond the reach of Western observers.
By the end of the day Sunday, authorities reported turnout in Chechnya at 99.59 percent, with 99.82 percent of voters backing Mr. Putin. Mr. Zyuganov, the runner-up, won 0.04 percent. How it was accomplished is illustrative of the types of abuse that have angered the street protesters who oppose Mr. Putin.