Putin secured his internal legitimacy as the Russian presidency

George Marinescu
English Section / 18 martie

Vladimir Putin, after voting electronically in the presidential election. (Photo source: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/)

Vladimir Putin, after voting electronically in the presidential election. (Photo source: http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/)

Versiunea în limba română

The presidential elections in the Russian Federation are ones with an expected end: massive turnout at the polls (yesterday, by 4 p.m. - Moscow time - 70.81% of voters had voted according to the Central Electoral Commission, a higher turnout than in the 2018 presidential elections when 67.54% of voters showed up to vote), massive remote electronic voting (on Sunday at 4 p.m. the Russian authorities announced that more than 92% of all voters registered in the remote electronic voting platform had already voted) and a sure winner before the election - Vladimir Putin.

According to opinion polls that credit him with 82.5% of the electorate's votes, Putin won as the only valid competitor, because the other three counter-candidates validated by the Central Electoral Commission, who come from the same side of the political scene as the president of the Russian Federation, did not they did not even play the rabbit roles that some athletes play in endurance races to help the main favorite to set a European, world or Olympic record. Nikolai Kharitonov, Leonid Slutsky and Vladislav Davankov were mere matriots in the elections in the Russian Federation, behind which Vladimir Putin ultimately hid, elections which, for the first time in history, took place over three days, because the dictator of in the Kremlin, he wanted to legitimize his power through a large turnout.

That's why authorities across the Russian Federation prepared more than 94,000 polling stations and printed 113.6 million ballots. Outside Russia, 230 polling stations were opened in 111 countries. In addition to voters who went to the polls, 4.76 million Russian citizens requested to vote remotely electronically, including President Vladimir Putin.

However, the three days of voting were not without incidents. The authorities reported by yesterday afternoon over 280,000 attempted cyber attacks on the platform through which remote electronic voting could be exercised and over 23,000 attempted cyber attacks on the website of the Central Electoral Commission and in the polling stations several people were detained who threw paint or ink into the ballot boxes, who poured iodine over the voter lists or who threw Molotov cocktails over the ballot papers. The respective incidents were reported in several localities of the Russian Federation: Moscow (a woman set fire to a voting booth), Karachay-Cherkessia, Veliky Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Yalta, North Ossetia, Khanty-Mansyisk (a Molotov cocktail thrown by a man in the ballot box), Saint Petersburg (at a school where two polling stations were set up, a girl threw a Molotov cocktail at a poster). In Kogalym a woman set fire to the ballot paper and also tried to set fire to a ballot box, and in Moscow a man set fire to a voting booth.

214 ballot boxes - affected by the incidents in the polling stations

The vice president of Russia's Central Electoral Commission, Nikolai Bulaev, said that people who poured paint or ink into ballot boxes did so because "they were promised money and rewards."

Moreover, Ella Pamfilova, the president of the Central Electoral Commission, stated that some of the detained persons stated that they were promised 100,000 rubles by other persons for damaging the ballot box, who also told them that they would not suffer anything because such an action would amount to hooliganism. The head of the Central Electoral Commission specified that the members of the constituency commissions were instructed to involve the Russian Guard, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other authorities to strengthen the security of the ballot boxes. According to Ella Pamfilova, the presidential elections in the Russian Federation are monitored by 1,115 international observers and experts from 129 countries, including the USA.

All ballots that were damaged at polling stations will be analyzed and, if they are found to be legible, they will be taken into account when counting votes, said Konstantin Mazurevsky, a member of the Electoral Commission, to the Russian news agency TASS Central of the Russian Federation.

The official said: "We need to scrutinize each specific ballot paper, in particular, to ensure that it retains the stamp, signatures of polling station members and seal - these are mandatory attributes of the ballot paper. If it is possible to determine the will of the voter, then, of course, such a ballot should be counted, like all others." He added that in cases of serious damage to the ballot box, all ballots in it are considered invalid.

Following the incidents, 214 ballot boxes were affected throughout the territory of the Russian Federation, according to the information sent by the Central Electoral Commission, quoted by journalists from the Russian publication Kommersant.

The pro-Russian authorities in the Ukrainian regions - Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia - occupied by the Russian Federation also organized polling stations for approximately 4.5 million voters (turnout in the Zaporizhia region was 72.38% after the first two days, and in the Kherson region - 77.7%, at the beginning of the third day of voting), but some were attacked by the Ukrainian armed forces, as happened in the Kherson region at the Kakhovka and Brilevka polling stations , but also in Kamenka-Dneprovskaya, Zaporozhye region.

Following these incidents, President Vladimir Putin convened a meeting of the Security Council in which he told members that the attacks launched by Ukrainian military forces on the territory of the Russian Federation were taking place to disrupt the presidential elections and said that "the Russian people will respond to these actions with even more unity."

Despite all the statements of Vladimir Putin, yesterday in the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, the polling stations closed at 15:00 for security reasons and the counting of votes began, according to journalists from the Russian publication Kommersant citing the press service of the regional electoral commission.

The disrespected testament of Alexei Navalnîi

Moreover, in order to prevent the incidents, especially those of yesterday when the admirers of the political dissident Alexei Navalny, killed in prison, announced that they would block the vote around 12 o'clock through a massive simultaneous presence at the polling stations, the Moscow prosecutor's office issued in 14 March issued a warning regarding these "uncoordinated mass public events" and stated that participants would be held liable for misdemeanor and criminal charges. The Prosecutor's Office considers these actions to be "illegal mass public actions" and has declared that it will sanction participation in such actions, dissemination of information about them, preventing citizens from exercising their voting rights and the activity of electoral commissions, as well as the involvement of minors in illegal activities . The press release issued by the Moscow Prosecutor's Office states that the above actions can be qualified as crimes under the articles of the Criminal Code on obstructing the exercise of electoral rights and the activity of electoral commissions (Article 141), the repeated violation of the procedure established for organizing a rally ( article 212¹) and the involvement of a minor in the commission of crimes (article 150).

The Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, stated in a post on the official page on the Telegram network that people who committed crimes at polling stations during the presidential elections in the Russian Federation could be charged under the article on treason ( article 275 of the Criminal Code).

Dmitri Medvedev specified: "All scoundrels who commit crimes at or near polling stations (arson, vandalism, etc.) must remember that they can be held accountable, in addition to art. 141 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation "Obstruction of the exercise of electoral rights or the activity of electoral commissions", and according to art. 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation - high treason in the form of providing any assistance to a foreign state during a war. They are traitors, and their actions can be punished according to the Penal Code".

Dmitri Medvedev said that the people who were fined contraventionally for the incidents at the polling stations can also be accused of committing one of the crimes against the foundations of constitutional order and state security provided for and punished according to Chapter 29 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

Probably, because of these warnings and statements, the protest initially announced as Alexei Navalnyi's testament did not take place. However, yesterday's incidents at the polling stations are the first of their kind in the Russian Federation on the occasion of the presidential elections, which indicates a state of dissatisfaction exists among a certain segment of Russian citizens.

Molotov cocktails at the Russian Embassy in Chisinau

The Russian Federation organized polling stations for presidential elections in Transnistria as well, despite the protests of the authorities in Chisinau. In Transnistria, only six polling stations were opened compared to the 24 set up in 2018, and the 200,000 Transnistrian Russians (number advanced by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov) were only able to express their choice yesterday. Of the six wards, three were set up in Tiraspol and one each in the localities of Bender, Rîbniţa and Grigoriopol. Only one polling station was opened in the Republic of Moldova, at the Russian Embassy in Chisinau. Yesterday, during the election, a man threw two Molotov cocktails in the courtyard of the Russian embassy in Chisinau, and the law enforcement forces of the Republic of Moldova detained him immediately, according to the TASS agency. Due to this incident, voters' access to the voting station inside the embassy was limited for 20 minutes, after which the electoral process was resumed under normal conditions.

The head of the Human Rights Council of the Presidential Administration, Valery Fadeev, said that no violations were identified that could affect the results of the presidential election. He called the identified violations "minor." According to him, in the context of a military operation, the elections take place "clearly, within the constitutional framework".

Valery Fadeev said: "No violations were identified that could affect the results of the elections to some extent. (...) In terms of voting quality, the Russian system proved to be one of the most modern in the world. We have mobile ballot boxes, electronic voting and three-day voting".

Russia's Commissioner for Human Rights, Tatyana Moskalkova, said the violations identified were minor. According to Ms. Moskalkova, she sent 13 addresses to the electoral commissions regarding incorrectly positioned video cameras, the visibility of which was not as desired in the polling stations, and the errors were eliminated.

However, a number of international observers monitoring the election said, cited by Reuters and France Press, that older Russian voters were manipulated into expressing their choice to vote, even if they did not highlight other major irregularities.

What is certain is that Vladimir Putin has obtained the legitimacy he wanted and practically, from now on, it is almost impossible for the West to negotiate with the Russian Federation over the head of the re-elected president of the country with an overwhelming majority.