The dramatic slump in United Russia’s share of the vote in Sunday’s parliamentary elections shows that voters defied a massive campaign of intimidation aimed at bolstering support for the ruling party.
President Medvedev and prime minister Putin’s party saw its share fall from around 64% to just under half after a campaign in which the Kremlin tried to bully the electorate.
In the run-up to the election,
Videos posted to YouTube showed election workers opening ballot boxes with pre-marked ballots for United Russia. One poll worker told NK TV that ballot boxes were filled with checked-off ballots while she and others were in a meeting. At one polling station pens with disappearing ink were discovered, a video reported.
Members of the right wing youth group, Nashi, were brought in to
Countless blatant acts of repression – varying from brutal to comical – included the detention of Sergei Udaltsov, head of the Left Front and Eduard Limonov, leader of the opposition The Other Russia movement. Limonov supporters were also detained while Udaltsov was hustled into an unmarked car by unidentified men and then sentenced to five days’ arrest by a district court for “disobedience”.
Campaign ads by opposition parties were banned on state television by order of the Central Elections Commission. Intimidation and censorship by federal and local authorities included attacks on journalists, with a Moscow Times reporter ejected from a polling station in Oktyabrsky.
The ruling United Russia party was clearly behind denial of service attacks on a host of independent, business and liberal websites and media including Live Journal, a popular blogging platform, Ekho Mosvky, the New Times, the independent election monitor Golos, Bolshoi Gorod, Kommersant and the Slon.ru business news portal. Election commission officials confiscated the media accreditation of Radio Liberty reporters.
The authorities’ clampdown was easier in rural areas, where fewer people have internet connections. But Putin’s brutal state, which has overseen massive corruption and scores of journalists beaten and murdered in recent years, has not succeeded in preventing Russians – 51 million of whom have access to the Internet - from denouncing electoral manipulation.
Attempts to subvert the electoral process – shown on YouTube and social media - have increased voter scepticism about what one Muscovite derided as a “jackass democracy”.
Editor Grigory Okhotin resigned from an offshoot of the Ria Novosti news agency , after receiving an internal email asking employees “not to post any article hostile to Putin and United Russia on the site” during the week before the elections.
Ekho Moskvy’s editor-in-chief wrote on Twitter that the cyber attacks were an attempt to stop evidence of election violations from leaking out. The radio station fought back with a screenshot of its site full of Bad Gateway messages, which it jokingly called the “new site design”, on its Facebook page.
A decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the restoration of capitalism,
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