Enjoying ad-free content?
Since July 1, 2024, we have disabled all ads to improve your reading experience.
This commitment costs us $10,000 a month. Your support can help us fill the gap.
Support us
Our journalism is banned in Russia. We need your help to keep providing you with the truth.

Moscow?€™s Carousel Elections

The level of falsifications in the Oct. 11 Moscow City Duma elections was unprecedented in modern Russian history. Officials did everything in their power to prevent opposition candidates from registering, and Yabloko was obstructed by local authorities and siloviki structures as early on as the signature collection stage.

On Oct. 10, the eve of the elections, almost every electoral district had run out of ballots. According to Yabloko representatives, the Strogino election committee handed out a total of only 149 ballots for the entire district. Instead, we witnessed the so-called “carousel” system — busloads of passengers who travel from district to district to cast their votes repeatedly.

We received reports of large-scale ballot stuffing across the city. Buses filled with dozens of passengers pulled up to polling stations. After they presented their passports, election officials gave them huge stacks of absentee ballots. Later, signatures would magically appear on the polling station’s voter lists alongside the names of so-called “dead souls” — people who hadn’t voted for years or who had died long ago. A Yabloko observer at a Tagansky polling station caught a glimpse of one such list with marks made beside about 60 names.

In the Arbat district, all of the teachers from one of the local schools used absentee ballots to vote, meaning that 82 people from various districts of Moscow converged on the polling station within the walls of their own school to cast their votes.

Various municipal and social workers were also compelled to spend their Sunday at the polling stations where, in violation of the law, they served as election officials. Social workers were also eager to make “house calls,” giving people the opportunity to vote at home. Social workers even “helped” pensioners to vote at polling stations.

At one polling station in the Otradnoye district, workers handed pensioners ballots with the United Russia candidates already selected. When observers at the scene requested that they stop violating the rules, members of the district election committee replied that the elderly people were suffering from poor eyesight and had specifically requested the assistance.

At some polling stations, people stuffed bundles of ballots into ballot boxes with opposition observers and policemen watching them. At one polling station in the Akademichesky district, a Yabloko candidate for the City Duma, Sergei Markov, caught two young people stuffing a ballot box, but the policeman on duty initially refused to detain them. Only after Markov insisted and spoke to the policeman’s commander did the officer finally intervene.

Among the more curious incidents was the discovery in the Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya district of a “reserve” voting district not found anywhere on the Moscow election committee’s official list. There was also an incident in the Severnoye Medvedkovo district where private security agents closed a polling station to all voters between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. What happened inside the building during those 90 minutes is anybody’s guess. Similarly, it is unclear what happened at a polling station in the Meshchansky district after the election committee ordered the police to evict all Yabloko observers — and even election candidates who were present — from the premises.

After the votes are counted at the polling stations, the chairs of the various neighborhood election committees met at a district election committee, and this is where the main instances of falsification took place. Yabloko observer Vitaly Reznikov witnessed how the vote tallies from the individual neighborhoods were “corrected” according to the instructions of the ranking election authority. Reznikov recounts how he saw the chairs of the district committees go into the office of their superiors and only afterward were their vote tallies entered into the general database. Marina Ivannikova, member of Yabloko and the Levoberezhny district election committee, saw entirely new tallies “drawn up” at their meeting.

Blatant falsification could be the only explanation for the discrepancy between a notarized copy of the vote tally from District 1,702 that Yabloko obtained and the official figures announced for the same district — a discrepancy of 550 votes in United Russia’s favor. Only falsifiers in the district election committee could have “shifted” 20 of 25 votes received by Yabloko into the United Russia column at District 1,701.

The most ludicrous example of falsification occurred at District 192, where my family and I are registered and where we cast our votes on election day. Video footage on Ren-TV clearly showed me placing my own vote on Oct. 11, but after the polls closed the official election returns showed the figure “0” for the Yabloko party in my district.

One exception to the falsification was the polling station where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin voted. Here, a command was apparently handed down not to falsify in a district directly associated with Putin. As a result, Yabloko garnered 18 percent of the vote there.

You might ask why the current authoritarian regime resorted to bringing in busloads of voters to stuff ballot boxes. The answer is that the authorities want very much to look like it is a democracy to the outside world. The more autocratic Russia becomes, the more Russia has to falsify its fragile democratic institutions.

Equally important, the authorities want to create the impression that the Russian people overwhelmingly supported United Russia and its candidates. The problem is that this farce is becoming increasing difficult to pull off with each successive falsification.

Sergei Mitrokhin, who served as a State Duma deputy from 1994 to 2003 and a Moscow City Duma deputy from 2005 to 2009, is chairman of the Yabloko party.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more