Last week, Russia held federal and regional elections in 49 of its 83 regions, as well as in Crimea and the four regions of occupied Ukraine. Russians chose mayors, regional leaders and deputies for regional parliaments and the upper chamber of the Federation Council.
- This year’s elections are affected by the greatest pressure on candidates, observers and voters seen at any time in Putin’s 23-year rule, according to a report from the independent election monitoring organization Golos. Last month, members of Golos had their homes searched by the police, and their chairman was arrested. Many regions saw the blandest, most inconspicuous campaigning of modern times and in many cases the formal opposition candidates merely pretended to take part, the movement’s analysts wrote.
- This year’s elections officially lasted for three days, even though the elections themselves were labeled “single voting day.” Electronic voting was used in 25 regions, and Golos reported mass coercion to force voters to use online polling. Putin himself cast his vote electronically.
- Experts believe that online polling runs the risk of falsification and compromises voter anonymity. With electronic polling, it is hard to ensure that each vote is legitimate. “You can’t see if, for example, an employee of a state organization might have been forced to vote for a candidate, how they might have sat him at a computer, how they pressured his colleagues in the same way,” said Mikhail Klimarev, executive director of the Internet Protection Society.
- For the first time, elections were held in the occupied territories: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. In these regions, the ruling United Russia party recorded an expected victory. Judging from photos from these regions, in many instances voters cast their ballots under the gaze of masked men carrying machine guns.
Why the world should care:
Wartime elections in Russia and the occupied territories of Ukraine passed with no big surprises. They can be seen as a dress-rehearsal for Putin’s 2024 election. However, there is still a question mark hovering over the role of online voting. It’s possible that the system will be further developed to cover a wider geographical area, suggested pro-Kremlin analyst Alexei Chesanov.