MOSCOW (AP) – Vladimir Putin called his landslide win in the presidential election a victory in an “open and honest battle,” but both Russian and international observers begged to differ.
The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, a respected international watchdog, said the election that returned Putin to the presidency after four years as prime minister had “serious problems.” The independent Russian elections monitor Golos said the vote was neither free nor fair.
Here’s a list of the main violations reported during Sunday’s ballot, which Putin won with 64 percent of the vote:
VOTING OUTSIDE DESIGNATED POLLING STATIONS:
According to Golos, many voters cast their ballots either right at their state-run enterprises or under their bosses’ watchful eyes, while others were bused to polling stations where they were not on voter rolls and where there was little oversight over voting.
USE OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS:
Over 2 million absentee ballots were used in the election, and Golos monitors said that allowed for widespread violations. Many workers of state-controlled enterprises were forced to obtain absentee ballots and then vote under supervision. Absentee ballots were also used in multiple voting.
VOTING MORE THAN ONCE:
Golos said “carousel voting,” in which busloads of voters are driven around to cast ballots multiple times, also was widespread. Often, the offenders walked into polling stations wearing ribbons around their arms or with special marks in their passports, which they presented as identification. Election officials then identified those people as carousel voters and gave them the ballots of voters who were unlikely to show up.
A web-camera video from a village in the southern province of Dagestan shows several men standing at an electronic ballot box and feeding dozens of ballots into it for several minutes. Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov described the incident as the local election officials’ “fatal mistake.” Churov explained that those ballots had been filled out by sick or elderly people voting at home and that election officials were merely depositing them in the ballot box. In the end, voting results at that polling station were annulled after the complaints.
PAID TO VOTE:
Another video shows an activist who signed up on an Internet forum to take part in multiple (carousel) voting for 1,000 rubles ($33 dollars.) The video, shot by the activist, shows him meeting the organizers at a subway station and then being bused to a nearby polling station. The activist and a dozen other people are shown lining up to receive the ballots and then voting at the station. Their names appear on a separate list at the polling station.
NOT FREE OR FAIR:
Andrei Buzin, an election expert at Golos, said that the falsifications were not widespread enough to have left Putin with less than 50 percent of the vote and require a runoff, but the vote was still skewed. “I wouldn’t call these elections free or fair,” Buzin said.
The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe said “there was no real competition, and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt.” The watchdog noted that the election “process deteriorated during the vote count, which was assessed negatively in almost one-third of polling stations observed.”
Associated Press writers Nataliya Vasilyeva, Peter Leonard, Mansur Mirovalev and Sofia Javed contributed to this report.
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