Moscow Even the country’s Central Election Commission could not ignore a leaked sound recording from Russia: The recording can be heard how a high-ranking official in the Moscow satellite city of Korolev calls on her subordinate colleagues to secure a result of 42 to 45 percent of the votes for the Kremlin party “United Russia”. Since everything has to “look clean”, “only our people” are allowed to monitor the polls as election observers.
The recording generated such an echo that the authorities had to act. The regional government denied having made specifications on the election result. The Central Election Commission asked the judiciary to investigate the case. So far there have been no consequences.
What was exposed in Korolev is in principle possible anywhere in Russia, since the Kremlin itself sabotages a fair vote and makes it difficult to monitor the elections independently. The political cleansing in the run-up to the Duma elections, which will take place from September 17th to 19th, has reached unprecedented proportions. Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was locked away at the beginning of the year and all of his organizations were declared extremist.
Virtually all candidates who had any relationship with the opposition were excluded from the election. This applies not only to close confidants, but also to moderate opposition figures such as Lev Schlosberg or Dmitri Gudkow, who are critical of Navalny, but who nevertheless demanded his release. The authorities initiated criminal proceedings against both of them on various pretexts.
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The electoral commission recognized other applicants’ signatures or found foreign property, such as the communist ex-presidential candidate Pawel Grudinin. In some cases, Apple’s stock was enough to exclude candidates.
Authorities advocate online voting
Since April, the Ministry of Justice has put 30 critical media outlets and journalists on the list of foreign agents to hinder their work. Election observers from the non-governmental organization (NGO) “Golos” were also branded as “foreign agents” and banned from polling stations. Other election observers are helpless in the face of the three-day vote.
In addition, the Russian authorities have discovered a new method of securing control over the election: the online voting process. It is being used more and more in Moscow. Mayor Sergej Sobjanin advertised that it was “faster, convenient and reliable” and, in view of Covid, also “the safest” method.
1.5 million or 20 percent of the voters in Moscow are already registered in this way. Mostly they are civil servants and employees of the public service, often urged to do so by the authorities. The Internet newspaper “Meduza” reports, with reference to an informant from the presidential administration, that the online election serves to mobilize more people. Senior physicians, directors or administrators could see during the three-day voting which of their nurses, teachers or employees has already voted.
A high-ranking member of the Kremlin party cynically spoke to Meduza of an “elegant corporate and administrative mobilization called ‘vote directly on the computer of the manager of your company’.”
Even if there are supposedly no direct guidelines as to whom employees should vote for, it is pretty clear how the vote will turn out under such strict scrutiny. Especially since the rumor that the virtual election results can be specifically assigned to voters increases the discipline of the voters.
In the Moscow city council elections in 2019, the “intelligent voting” strategy devised by Navalny’s team severely weakened the Kremlin party. The strategy is to concentrate all opposition voices on the Kremlin’s strongest challenger in each constituency.
So that this does not happen again, a court has now ordered the search engines Yandex and Google to block the reference to the corresponding website in their search engines because of alleged copyright infringements. Spicy: The copyright to the “intelligent vote” was applied for in court by a company that sells sheepskins.
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