RRussia’s elections this week ended with a constitutional sweep for the ruling United Russia party, which claimed 324 out of 450 seats in parliament with an official turnout of 51.72%. But to call the vote simple for the Kremlin would miss the point.
Reaching such a position required around 14 million anomalous votes – a record, statisticians say – and brought unlikely political comrades together in outrage.
A group of Independents, Democrats and Communists have joined forces to form what they call a “coalition committee” whose demands include the cancellation of the controversial results of electronic voting in Moscow and the end of the use of the opaque system in future elections.
Some of them will take to the streets on Saturday at a Communist-sponsored rally in Moscow’s central square to show their numbers.
But the timidity to even name the event – which went from a “protest” to a “meeting with parliamentarians” after threats from the state – underscored the weakness of their protest.
The cause was hardly helped by the leadership which apparently canceled the revolution. Gennady Zyuganov, 72, the leader of the Communists, who appeared to cancel the revolution.
“I want to ask everyone to show maximum restraint at this difficult time,” he said.
But those below are not yet ready to line up.
Mikhail Lobanov, 37, who presented himself to the Communists against state television propagandist Yevgeny Popov, said he saw no “radical” difference in views with the leadership. But his rhetoric – “we know the victory was stolen by fraud” – seemed to offer a different view.
Mr Lobanov is one of eight independent candidates who edged out the Kremlin candidates in Moscow before the controversial e-voting results. He said he would be among those who would protest the results in Pushkin Square.
Given promises of arrests, it seems unlikely that Saturday’s protest will attract more than a few hundred of the most dedicated. At smaller events on Monday and Thursday, journalists outnumbered protesters.
Sergei Mitrokhine, 58, a veteran Democratic candidate who also signed up for the coalition committee, said The independent it was important to continue to protest even if the rewards were not immediate. Protest first, and public opinion would follow. But keeping one foot in the door was important to have a chance to challenge the fraud, he said.
“Forgery is of course nothing new for the Russian elections,” said the ex-candidate. “But this year, electronic voting appears to have changed the scale of cheating.”
The technical intricacies of Moscow’s electronic voting process, which was administered by the IT department of the city council, made his criticism difficult. But Anastasia Bryukhanova, 32, an officially defeated independent in the opposition-leaning Leningradskaya constituency, used statistical analysis of the data to put meat on her own fraud allegations.
An analysis of electronic voting patterns over the three voting days showed evidence, Bryukhanova said, of “outside interference”. The data shows a slow period of voting for United Russia at first, followed by a rapid phase, with breaks for what appears to be lunch.
“You would expect the same proportions of people to vote on any day,” she said. The independent. “But you would see the Kremlin candidate receiving artificial boosts at specific times of the day.”
Ms Bryukhanova is attempting to challenge the results in court – a “masochistic” enterprise, she admits, given the Kremlin’s total control over the justice system. But the process was “important” in helping people understand how e-voting fraud worked.
“You can only fight when you know what exactly you are fighting against,” she said.
For what it’s worth, the democracy activist appeared even less convinced of who she was fighting. It had little in common with the Communist Party platform, she said. For this reason, she did not intend to join the opposition “coalition committee”.
She also stopped before approving what she described as Saturday’s “risky” protest and predicted low turnout.
“Successful protests are always led by society, not by political statements,” she said. “And that’s the problem. Despite the fraud, so far people seem decidedly unmoved.
The Independent Gt