Despite Putin’s chipper demeanor about the importance of the elections, not everyone was convinced of his showmanship.
Michael Talan, a supporter of the democratic Russian opposition who emigrated to the US and is an expert in digital technologies for governments reflected that “The primary objective of open elections is to establish the legitimacy of power, a crucial concern for both domestic and international stakeholders.”
“The most recent open election day, proved to be a double-edged failure for the Kremlin,” he said.
“Despite the desperate desire of the Russian population to engage in the electoral process, it was evident that they were fully aware of the widespread fraud occurring on a large scale.”
Ilya Ponomarev, a Russian opposition political leader who has resided in Ukraine since being forced to quit Russia’s Duma after voting against the illegal annexation of Crimea, wrote on Facebook that, “80 percent of Muscovites voted remotely (out of 43 percent official turnout).
“That is, they did not vote,” Ponomarev said. “This means that the real turnout did not reach even 10 percent and was in the neighborhood of 5 percent.”
Talan also cast doubt on the legitimacy of online voting in Russia, saying: “Even digital technologies were deployed to manipulate the freedom and will of citizens. A significant number of individuals who attempted to cast their votes ‘online’ encountered a disheartening message stating, ‘You have already voted,’ further highlighting the extent of manipulation.
“This development only solidified the conviction of foreign leaders that Putin perceives himself as a modern-day Tsar, and any discussions regarding imminent positive change appear futile,” Talan said.
Pro-Russian military strategist, Igor Strelkov (Girkin), who helped invade Ukraine in 2014, ran a poll on his Telegram channel asking for voting intention.
As a hard nationalist, Strelkov shares much of the same voter base as those who most support Putin, so one would suspect that support for Putin’s party would be very strong.
However, of the 100,000 votes, only 29 percent said they would vote for Putin’s United Russia, whereas an equal 29 percent said they would “not go to vote, as it is useless.”
Also lacking enthusiasm were the 18 percent who said they were “against all” candidates and another 10 percent who said they would write in Strelkov’s name and take a selfie with it.
But was the force of the Kremlin’s propaganda able to change minds?
“No propaganda has been able to change the opinion about this farce either in the international arena or even inside Russia,” Ihor Solovey, Ukraine’s top Russian propaganda expert and Director of STRATCOM told Kyiv Post.
“Everyone understands perfectly well that the Russian leadership has not held real elections for a long time. As Peskov said – ‘elections in Russia are an expensive bureaucracy,’”
Across Russia, the election results were strongly in favor of Putin’s United Russia, which typically beat other parties by dozens of points.
Irina Tsukerman is not surprised, as “Putin right now is strongest he has ever been in terms of his political grip over the inner circles,” said the national security lawyer and geopolitical analyst.
She continued, “local elections are far from his concerns, because all the power is focused in Moscow (and to a lesser extent St. Petersburg), which means the periphery can only ‘signal’ dissatisfaction with the status quo but can’t actually challenge the regime, at least not without dedicated resources and a strategic coordination which is not at that level yet.”
In the illegally occupied territories of Ukraine
Referring to the fake elections held in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories, the European Council said the “illegal so-called ‘elections’ in Ukraine took place amidst Russia’s forced and illegal granting of passports, including to children, forced transfer and deportation, widespread and systematic violations and abuses of human rights as well as intimidation and increasing repression of Ukrainian citizens by Russia and its illegitimately appointed authorities in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.”
In the illegally occupied territories of Ukraine, multiple videos appeared online, during the elections, of voters being forced to vote by Russian soldiers and some polling places had armed soldiers helping to conduct the elections.
Throughout the elections, multiple Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels posted pictures of ballots with anti-Kremlin and anti-Putin slogans that voters had scribbled across them.
So, was anyone convinced?
Stephen Nix, a Washington DC-based international election expert and Regional Director of the International Republican Institute (IRI) believes that the numbers speak for themselves: “92 percent of the votes in Moscow, or electronic votes, and I think that speaks for itself.
“Turnout in the [Russian] occupied territories [of Ukraine] was low, even though they were pumped up by local authorities, which again speaks to the complete illegitimacy of those elections.”
The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
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