Russia’s new election chief, whose notorious predecessor oversaw massive election fraud, on Thursday pledged to resign if there are widespread voting violations in the upcoming parliamentary vote, AP reports:
Vote-rigging in the 2011 parliamentary elections under Central Election Commission chairman Vladimir Churov spilled into the biggest anti-government protests in a decade. Churov insisted there was nothing wrong with a vote in which hundreds of election observers reported and uploaded videos of brazen ballot-staffing and multiple voting across the country.
“I’m confident that (the elections) will be better than before because I know what we have done in the regions. If I fail in this election, of course I will resign,” said Ella Pamfilova (above)…. Unlike her predecessor who dismissed election observers as Western spies, Pamfilova says she’s working closely with monitors, including the Golos group which has been blacklisted as a foreign agent.
While their chances to win seats are slim, opposition candidates such as Maria Baronova say their struggle lays the groundwork for real democracy in a country where the government of President Vladimir Putin has steadily consolidated power and suppressed opposition.
“We need to do something right now because when the regime changes, we won’t be able to do anything without this experience,” she told USA TODAY in written comments.
While news programming has been filled with images of President Putin alongside Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (the official head of United Russia), last week state-controlled NTV showed the latest in a series of films smearing Russia’s opposition, the BBC reports:
Its expose, Eighteen Friends of Khodorkovsky, alleged that the former oil tycoon was funding candidates directly from abroad in violation of Russian rules. The film claimed that his aim was to declare the vote invalid and spark mass protests like those that followed evidence of fraud at the last elections.
“There is nothing they are afraid of more,” argues Vladimir Kara Murza (left), co-ordinator of Mr Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia movement. He was detained himself last week, at a campaign rally for another opposition candidate which police said had not been authorised.
“I think this [fear of protest] is the biggest, if not the only reason they are going to such lengths to create an appearance of free and fair elections. But I think it’s important not to be fooled.”
Open Russia says it provides expert advice and support for candidates like Natalia Gryaznevich, including lawyers and PR, not cash. But the movement does admit it has an agenda.
“We want to show that there are people who have a different vision and want to see Russia as a modern, European democracy,” Vladimir Kara Murza explains.
Don’t expect protests or public opposition, says Dr Andrew Monaghan, Senior Research Fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House:
If there is limited political opposition, the authorities do nevertheless face public social opposition and protest, particularly in the regions. Most recently, in August, farmers staged an anti-corruption march on Moscow. But widespread frustration does not appear to be translating into greater public political activity: polls suggest that a large majority (80%) is not ready to become more active in politics, or even believes that their vote can affect politics at either regional or federal level (87%). It is unlikely that frustration will lead to substantial nationwide protest demonstrations.In any case, the authorities, long worried about the possibility of a ‘Maidan’ style protest taking place in Russia, have taken measures to prevent it. Amendments tightening legislation on public assembly, rallies and protests have been introduced, and law enforcement organisations, including the newly established National Guard, have conducted major exercises to prepare to deal with ‘civil disobedience’ similar to ‘Maidan’. RTWT