The Mobocracy That Is Russia

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 4, 2012

So Vladimir Putin won an election that everyone knows was rigged. It is, of course, easy to fulfill promises to people that one will win an election when one’s campaign efforts include fraud:

Tears rolled down the former KGB agent’s cheeks as he claimed victory at a rally attended by thousands in Moscow.

“I promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia,” Mr Putin told the rally just metres from the Kremlin in the centre of Moscow.

[. . .]

Within two hours of polls opening in Moscow at 8am, Twitter and other social media were flooded with reports of suspected “carousel voting”: a ploy widely used during disputed parliamentary elections in December in which organised groups of people vote at several different polling stations using the same absentee ballots.

The reports of falsifications remain so far unconfirmed, although bloggers posted photographs and videos of large groups of people arriving simultaneously at stations to vote.

Before the vote, election monitors had warned that many polling stations had run out of absentee ballots, indicating they might be used in fraud, possibly by Mr Putin’s supporters.

Activists from the Democratic Choice NGO put up footage on Sunday which showed them infiltrating a group recruited online who were allegedly offered money to ride by bus to a polling station where they received a ballot to vote on an “extra list”.

Rosvybory, a monitoring organisation run by the anti-corruption blogger and protest leader Alexei Navalny, claimed to have recorded 2,500 violations of electoral law by early afternoon. One case involved voters being paid to cast their ballot.

Navalny tweeted: “We, of course, expected carousels, but not on this scale.”

Observers also reported being illegally removed by police or election officials from several polling stations.

Given the degree to which Russia has been corrupted by thugs posing as national leaders, and given the degree to which those thugs have professed antipathy to a host of American foreign policy goals, the United States needs some kind of coherent Russia policy to deal with Putin and his gang. The Obama administration has claimed to have “reset” relations with Russia. Precisely what good has that “reset” done us?

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