Allegations of voting fraud have surfaced in Russia’s first parliamentary election since its annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in early 2014. Russian officials have now confirmed that they will be investigating several reports of vote rigging from a Siberian region. As these allegations surface, it is expected that the Putin-backed United Russia party will win the election by a huge margin.
Russia’s election commission have said on Sunday that the votes from the Altai region of Siberia could be annulled if these allegations are confirmed. Election commission head Ella Pamfilova reported receiving several reports of “carousal voting” in the Siberian city of Barnaul. Carousal voting is when the same person casts a vote several times. Pamfilova, who is a renowned Human Rights activist, was appointed as the head of the country’s election commission in order to boost the Russian People’s and the International community’s confidence on the Russian electoral process.
And Pamfilova’s presence has already made a difference as these elections have employed a voting system deemed more equitable compared to previous elections. Half of the Duma, or lower house of parliament, seats will be determined by people voting for individuals whereas the other half will be selected from the party lists, unlike the last parliament election where every seat was drawn from the party lists.
With reports of voting fraud coming from the Siberian city of Barnaul, Pamfliova has said that if confirmed, these could lead the commission into calling a criminal prosecution. Pamfliova says that the commission could even “consider annulling the elections.” She also said that elsewhere, the election was “going normally.”
United Russia, the party backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and led by Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, currently holds a majority Duman seats, at 238. It is expected that United Russia will maintain its dominance in the current elections. The other three major parties, which include the Communist party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and A Just Russia, are also expected to win a few seats in the lower house.
Putin isn’t formally a member of United Russia but has been backing it. He showed up in the election headquarters of the party shortly after the results were announced, in order to congratulate the winners.
“Things are tough but people still voted for United Russia. It means that people see that United Russia members are really working hard for people even though it doesn’t always work.”
There were massive demonstrations against the government in Russia in 2011, following the last parliamentary election. The government had been accused of voting fraud. The appointment of one of the country’s top human rights advocates, Ella Pamfilova, was seen as a sign that the Kremlin wanted the people to have more confidence in the election process.
The first reports of voting fraud came only hours after the voting started when a Yabloko party candidate from the Altai region reported to the news agency TASS that there were several young people that were voting in the name of elderly people. And despite Pamfilova’s assurances that the voting was going on normally elsewhere, Mikhail Kasyanov, leader of the Russian opposition party, PARNAS, reported “massive violations” elsewhere including the capital.
“In Moscow, for example, they witnessed so-called carousel voting… And in the Samara region, our observers were prevented from entering polling stations.”
Kasyanov’s claims are backed by Golos, the election monitoring group, who has reported several irregularities from a number of regions on the website.
This is Russia’s first parliamentary election since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. This means that the people of this region are among Russia’s 110 million registered voters.
[Featured Image by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images]