Tag Archives: 2012 Russian presidential elections

Our Russian Election Day Special

Russia: Was There a Ballot Box?
By Chto Delat (St. Petersburg, Russia)
March 12, 2012

It is no secret that an overwhelming amount of corruption pervades Russia’s civic and economic life. And this [past] winter’s parliamentary and presidential elections proved to be no exception. Anyone who has taken an active interest in the practice of so-called “free and democratic” Russian elections can attest to their being rigged or skewed, to a greater or lesser degree, since 1993. This was especially the case with post-Soviet Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, and his “triumphant” re-election in 1996.

In light of this, it was widely anticipated that in the most recent elections, the ruling party, United Russia, and the campaign of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin—which were, in fact, one and the same entity—would engage in massive electoral fraud to secure vote majorities. Which is why the simple demand for “fair elections,” first made this past winter by a widespread grassroots election monitoring movement, was not just a radical call for change, but also one that proved capable—albeit temporarily and incompletely—of uniting opposition parties and ordinary citizens across the country’s political spectrum.

The grassroots movement turned this unprecedented opportunity to challenge the status quo into a palpable reality, with the main goal of impeding any attempts to manipulate and falsify election results, or, at the very least, documenting them.

No one, however, could have predicted this movement would become so popular among segments of the population that have previously been averse to politics. Young professionals—including lawyers, artists, economists, journalists and academics—suddenly enlisted as volunteer observers at polling stations. They drafted legal complaints and attended protest marches and rallies after monitors revealed the monstrous and despicable tricks the authorities employed to tip the elections in their favor.

This film, shot by the Mobile Observers Group for the Petrograd District of St. Petersburg on March 4, 2012, recounts what the group considers to be a run-of-the-mill instance of electoral fraud: a portable ballot box that should have been used by workers at a local market was stuffed, unbeknownst to the constituents, with ballots marked for Putin. It was impossible, however, to prove conclusively that the fraud had taken place because the “victims” themselves either could care less about what had happened or were too disempowered to do anything about it other than to wish the observers success in their mission.

The most dramatic result of the work done by the Mobile Observers Group was not the evidence it offered of electoral violations, but rather its exposure of the traditional division of Russia into two classes of people: those who recognize the need to act as free citizens and defend common civic interests, and those who remain indifferent. Only time will tell how this conflict, recurrent throughout Russian history, is resolved in its most recent incidence.

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Editor’s Note. Although this little bit of exposé reporting might seem like “ancient history” to some, we thought it was worth posting, because elections were held in various Russian regions and cities today (October 14). The effects on the voting population of the system of total fraud sketched above were best demonstrated in Vladivostok, where the turnout was LESS THAN 11% for elections to the city council. As Komsomolskaya Pravda notes, the turnout in Vladivostok was lowest in precincts where the greatest number of candidates had been tossed off the ballot before election day, while it was highest in the single precinct where all candidates were allowed to run.

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How to Get Away with Vote Rigging in Petersburg

www.mk.ru

Irina Molchanova
Vote Rigging Caused No Harm to Voters
Moskovskii Komsomolets
June 8, 2012

[Moskovskii Komsomolets in Petersburg] continues to monitor the scandalous story of blatant ballot rigging during the presidential election at Polling Station No. 1769 in the Central District [of Saint Petersburg]. Election commission members had their cover totally blown by a video posted on the web site Gosuslugi.ru. [Polling station] election commission chair [Tatyana] Ivanyuk and her deputy [Natalya] Atamanyuk clearly and audibly discuss “forging signatures” [in the video]. The sensational video reached the Smolninsky District Court, where Georgy Budny, a member of the [polling station] election commission who had discovered a “shortage” of votes, filed a suit. The court’s decision was no less sensational: the case was dismissed because, according to Judge Tatyana Matusyak, the rights of voters had not been violated. That is, by this logic, the vote rigging (the fact that it took place is not questioned) caused no harm to citizens.

“Don’t worry, guys!”

This paradoxical ruling was, to say the least, surprising and strange. For Judge Matusyak had demonstrated her resolve at the previous hearing: she had summoned the heroines of the video, Ivanyuk and Atamanyuk, to appear in court, and had requested that the video itself be brought so that she could view it right in the courtroom. For this purpose, Georgy Budny procured a video projector and, after setting it up, waited for the judge to order him to show the most contentious part of the video, which includes such incriminating remarks as “We’ll take [votes] away from Mironov, Zhirinovsky, Prokhorov. 54 percent. Uh-huh,” “We have to redo everything,” and “We have to forge all the signatures.”  But Judge Matusyak pretended not to notice the projector. It was not used at all [during the hearing].

Ivanyuk and Atamanyuk, who had been subpoenaed, did not produce themselves in court. Instead, a representative of the city election commission came [to the hearing]: he immediately declared that there was no legal point at issue because the rights of citizens had not been violated! According to him, only presidential candidates can request that the vote tally records from Polling Station Election Commission No. 1769 be invalidated, while ordinary voters whose votes were stolen as a result of vote rigging cannot do this because, allegedly, their rights were violated in no way. And Judge Matusyak fully supported his conclusion!

“This is complete nonsense,” said an outraged Georgy Budny. “It turns out you can show the whole country how votes are rigged, how the original vote tally records are torn up and buried in the bottom of a trash can (this is also visible in the video from Polling Station No. 1769 of the Central District – Editor) without any consequences for the vote riggers! After all, the rights of citizens have not been violated. But the Constitution (Article 32, Paragraph 2) clearly states that ‘citizens have the right to elect and be elected.’” But Judge Matusyak rejected [Budny’s] right to elect. After this court ruling, the words uttered by Polling Station No. 1769 chair Ivanyuk on election night (immediately after [the phrase] “forge all the signatures”) take on a frightening sense. “I have a super team!” says an overjoyed Ivanyuk, who works as a teacher at the children’s art center Transfiguration during the electoral off-season. “Don’t worry, guys. Everything will be okay. Well guys, good luck!”

25 Cases in the Courts

Smolninsky District Court has set a dangerous precedent. Now any instance of vote rigging cannot be challenged because it allegedly did not violate the rights of voters. A court hearing on the scandalous video will take place only in the event that one of the presidential candidates files a lawsuit in defense of his rights. In our case, this [would be] Mikhail Prokhorov, from whom exactly fifty votes were stolen at this polling station and given to Vladimir Putin. This was discovered the morning after the election, when Georgy Budny compared copies of vote tally records with the figures posted on the St. Petersburg Election Commission web site. A similar discrepancy in numbers was recorded at many polling stations. Now, according to Petersburg NGO For Fair Elections, around twenty-five cases of vote rigging on March 4 are being considered in the northern capital’s civil courts.

Georgy Budny has no intention of giving up. He is preparing an appeal to the City Court and has already appealed to Mikhail Prokhorov, via his web site, asking Prokhorov to send him a letter of attorney empowering him to represent Prokhorov’s interests in court. But the candidate has so far not responded.

Editor’s Note. Thanks to Comrade S. for the heads-up.

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Russian Sounds

Russian Sounds

Activist Film Studio, 2011

 

Concept and editing: Dmitry Vilensky (Chto Delat)

Production collective (research, screenplay, and direction): Sonya Akimova and Max Kulaev (DSPA); Pavel Arseniev, Dina Gatina, Roman Osminkin (Laboratory of Poetic Actionism); Nikolay Oleynikov, Dmitry Vilensky, Foma (Chto Delat); Oleg Zhuravlyev

This film was inspired by the editing, audio and narrative techniques used by Jean-Luc Godard in his film British Sounds (1969). Our film is an attempt to find out whether the spirit (if not the letter) of Godard’s experiments could be transferred to the suffocating reality of Russia on the eve of the 2011-2012 parliamentary and presidential elections. Godard’s film was released during a boisterous, revolutionary period in British politics and society. It was a manifesto for a new agitational cinema capable of describing the totality of social transformations in their dialectical emergence. Are we capable, in the midst of profound political and social reaction, of critically sharing Godard’s vision and aesthetics?

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Activist Film Studio aims to produce and distribute films dealing with activism and with different forms of (re)presenting and internally critiquing protest actions through experiments with the idiom of video art.

The studio’s films are not only educational experiences for viewers. They are the result of a learning process involving the entire collective researching and producing the films.

Activist Film Studio was initiated by Dmitry Vilensky (Chto Delat). It was inspired by previous work on a series of activist films produced by the Chto Delat platform in cooperation with a number of Russian and international activist projects.

Activist Film Studio’s films are produced by filmmakers who value the process of collective filmmaking and by people involved in the production and distribution of activist knowledge by means of cinematic narrative.

Activist Film Studio’s films are freely available on the Internet. They are meant to be screened in seminars and other educational contexts. In any case, public screenings of our films should be followed by open, public discussions.

Activist Film Studio is open to everyone interested in developing the (re)presentation of activist practices and ready to make films collectively. We encourage everyone to contact us for help in realizing their own film projects.

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