Tag Archives: vote rigging

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.

_____

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.
Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, film and video, Russian society

Patrick Cuninghame on Mexico’s Yo Soy 132 Student Movement

Class War University
June 11, 2012
YoSoy132: Student-led Uprising in Mexico – An interview with Patrick Cuninghame (Professor, Mexico City)

CW: What is the deal with YoSoy132?

Patrick: It’s kind of a weird movement, because it started in the private universities, in a very upper class Catholic private university called Iberoamericana. It’s probably one of the more progressive private universities, because it has a quite independent and active faculty trade union. It arose in response to Enrique Peña Nieto who is the PRI candidate for president. The PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) was in power continuously from 1929 to 2000, one of the world’s longest running dictatorships, guilty of incredible abuses of human rights. The most infamous one was the massacre of Tlatelolco on October 2nd, 1968, just before the Olympics, when the Mexican army and paramilitaries killed around 500 people in a square near the center of Mexico City. It’s never been properly investigated. The ex-Mexican president, Luis Echevarria who was the minister of Internal Affairs when that happened, was briefly arrested and charged with genocide in 2006, but was almost immediately released. In spite of all their crimes, they’re on the point of being re-elected after just 12 years out of power. It’s like fascism coming back. The problem is that the party that’s been in power, the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional), has been as bad if not worse than the PRI. So, it’s just gone from the frying pan to the fire and back to the frying pan again. 60,000 have died in these last 6 years of President Calderon from the ‘war against drugs,’ which in reality has been a war against the whole population, at the same time a new form of governance and a new theatre in the “global war against terrorism.” It’s been government through military dictatorship that we’ve had in Mexico since 2006, and the electoral fraud in 2006, too, that started it. Of course there’s a real danger of another electoral fraud. Until May 11th it seemed like Enrique Peña Nieto was going to win the elections easily. There had already been one or two setbacks for him. First, at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in December last year, he was asked what were the three most important books in his life, and he couldn’t name one. He is just such a complete airhead, an ignoramus. This is the guy who’s going to be the next president of Mexico!

So, that was a setback for him in terms of public relations, but nothing like what happened at the Iberoamericana on May 11th, when he went to visit it. He probably expected to get just a really easy ride, because nothing much has happened at the university in years. When he arrived, there were hundreds of students with banners that said things like “Remember Atenco”—which is this town near Mexico City, where when he was governor of the State of Mexico (the state surrounding Mexico City), there was a really vicious repression of the People’s Front for the Defense of the Land (FPDT in Spanish), on the 3rd of May 2006, during the Zapatistas’ Other Campaign. He and then president Fox sent the army and police in and they just massacred the population. They wanted revenge for the defeat of their plans by the FPDT to build a new international airport near Atenco in 2002. I’d never seen such vicious repression—groups of 20-30 police attacking anybody, innocent bystanders. They killed two youths: a UNAM student and a local youth. Houses were raided without search warrants and about two hundred people were just dragged off the streets and taken to prison, and during the bus journey to prison about 30 women were raped or sexually abused by the police in the buses or while getting on or off the buses.[i]  It was the rape of Atenco by this butcher. And Enrique Peña Nieto is going to be the next president. Fortunately, these guys (the students at the Iberoamericana) woke up and gave him a really, really hard time. In fact, at one point he was about to abandon his visit, because he was being harassed so much by the students. There’s this beautiful video of him and his bodyguards and the authorities of the university just not knowing what the hell to do—there’s this expression of panic on his face, just completely taken by surprise. Even when he had the meeting, most of the questions were really hostile against him. Under his governorship, the state of Mexico went completely backwards: the number of poor people increased, human rights abuses increased, femicides increased, and so on. He had no answer. Well, for a man who literally depends on the teleprompter for what to say, he had just nothing to say. He just didn’t answer the questions.  It was just a complete public relations disaster for him.

But, what happened was, that he has been supported by the two main TV channels, Televisa and TV Azteca, which dominate open TV in Mexico (the free TV), with their telenovelas, these ridiculous soap operas, which dominate coverage—12 hours a day of soaps—a complete manipulation and infantilization of the public. He is their candidate and they’re determined that he’s going to be elected. It also appears the PRI paid huge amounts of money since 2005 to guarantee positive coverage and promote Peña Nieto as a future presidential candidate. So, when that visit to Iberoamericana was televised on the news, they completely edited out all of the demonstrations. It was just incredible. If you compare what happened with what was presented on TV, it’s just two different worlds. And then the various media spokespersons—the president of the PRI, the intellectuals close to the PRI and Televisa—they all attacked the students, saying that they were just members of the PRD, the opposing party of the PRI, the party of the center left, very moderate (López Obredor, who might win the elections). They were saying, ‘these weren’t really students. These were people belonging to the PRD who were sent to the Iberoamericana that day. They’re thugs’—the most ridiculous accusations. If these intellectuals, the spokespersons of the PRI, hadn’t made these really crass accusations, the thing would have died there. But, fortunately, the students had the bullocks to respond. And about 131 of them went online, on YouTube, with their student cards, and said, ‘I am a student of this university, this is my student credential, and how dare the PRI accuse us of not being students.’ Our demonstration was completely genuine. That’s what’s called the ‘Somos Mas de 131′ movement that came out of Iberamericana, on Monday the 14th of May, after this demonstration on the 11th of May.  And then, it’s just grown from there.

Student Demonstration, May 31st [pic via VertigoPolitico]

Of course Televisa was saying it wasn’t an ‘authentic demonstration.’ So, they had a human chain from their university to the head office of Televisa in that part of Mexico City. Just a few hundred turned up from various private universities. The next step was to connect with the public universities. The first really big event was on Wednesday, 23rd May: there was a big demonstration in the center of Mexico City, under this monument that was supposed to be opened in 2010, on the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. But because of corruption and various delays it didn’t actually open until earlier this year. It’s called the Estela de Luz (The Pillar of Light). It’s a big tower that is completely ugly and useless and cost far too much. So, they chose this monument as a meeting place, as an example of the kind of corruption, impunity and ineptitude that they are opposing. They called a general meeting of students from private and public universities to go to that place. Far more people went than they expected—I think about 20,000 students, young people, and ordinary citizens turned up. And that’s really how the Yo Soy 132 movement took off.

Since then, just about every day there’s been some kind of public meeting somewhere. All the meetings are completely open to anybody to attend, and in open places outside. Since Wednesday, the 20th of May, just about every single university in the country, certainly all in Mexico City, has set up its own branch of this movement. It’s all being coordinated on the website of #yosoy132. It’s a kind of social network.  In my university, the UAM Xochimilco (the Metropolitan Autonomous University), which is historically a left-wing public university (Subcomandante Marcos was an Arts & Design Lecturer there until he went underground in 1983), last Friday, May 25th, about 100 students turned up—about half student activists and half students who were just curious. Most of my students in the University come from working class, lower-middle class backgrounds—very different from Iberoamericana, which is upper class. It’s amazing that this thing started there; even upper class kids are pissed off at the situation in Mexico, even though the economy is run entirely for their benefit. Still, they’re sick of the corruption and media manipulation. So, this is what kick-started it all off. The students there thought, ‘this movement has to become much bigger than us, much bigger than the private universities.’ The majority of students are in public universities, and of course the social composition of the public universities is completely different.

Student Demo – May 28th [pic via Vertigo Politico]

CW: Could you say a little more about the composition of this movement? Have any faculty gotten involved in it or is it totally student-led?

Patrick: At the moment it is student-led, and I hope it remains that way, because the worst thing that could happen is for the usual intellectuals to take it over. When they had this big meeting in the center of town—at the monument to celebrate the 100th anniversary of independence but which everybody sees as a monument to corruption—there were a lot of university professors and intellectuals and ex-activist, ‘leaders’ from the 1968 movement (they’re all obsessed with being ‘leaders’ of that movement, which is completely different from this movement—and student movements around the world—they’re leaderless). Everybody’s realizing that it’s a special movement. 2006 was a bit like now, a really euphoric moment.

I am in the Other Campaign of the EZLN. We oppose the campaign of López Obredor, because we know that he is really a politician of the center right, a neoliberal “progressive” like Lula in Brazil or the Kirchners in Argentina, but he is able to present himself as being of the center left because the other two parties are of the hard neoliberal, neocon right (the PRI and the PAN). He likes to make a lot of promises about how he’s going to change Mexico, but when he was mayor of Mexico City he adopted ‘zero tolerance’ to repress street vendors and he gentrified the historical center of Mexico City in alliance with the richest man in Mexico, Carlos Slim, so we know that not much is going to change under him, at least not for the better. But still, in 2006 we thought, ‘he’s bound to win,’ because he seemed by far the most popular candidate. We never thought that there was going to be an electoral fraud. But there was, and Calderon became president.  The first thing he did was to start this war against the ‘narcos,’ which was in reality a war against working class Mexicans. It’s been downhill since then: it’s been massacre after massacre. The left has just been kind of paralyzed in front of this war, this massacre that’s been going on continuously. So it’s been a really depressing time, these last six years. And also, the electoral campaign has been completely boring, virtually without content, and then, suddenly, this student movement came out of nowhere. We didn’t expect it.

Certainly, we are in front of a completely new situation. There was a meeting on May 25th in the Plaza de Las Tres Culturas (exactly where the massacre took place in 1968), of delegates from all the universities and they have made a declaration of what their aims are now as a movement. Of course it’s quite moderate, if you compare it to the Montreal or Chilean students movements. Their main demand continues to be the democratization of the media. But if we really had a democratized media in Mexico, that would be incredible. If you democratized the media anywhere, that would be incredible! There is of course a certain amount of naivety to think that the Mexican media—which is completely under the control of the worst kind of neoliberalism and of the mafia and the drug cartels—is suddenly going to become democratic; it’s just not going to happen. Nor did it happen in the US or Britain or any other so called democracy. The media is not free or neutral in any country in the world, especially not during elections. It’s a naive demand, but in some ways it has opened up the whole election by exposing the dependence of the political class, particularly their candidate Peña Nieto, on mass media manipulation. I would say that as things stand at the moment, Peña Nieto is in trouble. Everywhere he goes now there are thousands of people opposing him, chanting slogans at him, with placards, etc. A week ago, the PRI responded as they always do: with violence.  They just send their thugs to attack students who are opposing any meeting of Peña Nieto.  Now, that rebounded against them, because it’s bad publicity—using violence, intolerance against any form of opposition. It looks like the bad old “dinosaur” PRI is definitely back, never mind the talk of a “democratized” PRI.

CW: Is the media covering that violence?

Patrick: Yeah, in a way they have to. They can’t ignore it. The students are at the center of public attention. They’re denouncing the violence, so the TV and press have to report it. Normally they would not report it. It was a trending topic on Twitter last week—one of the top ten topics in the whole world. I read in the newspaper today that Peña Nieto had an election meeting in some provincial city, and when the opposition turned up to attack him, to denounce him, to chant slogans at him, at a public meeting of the PRI, he told his followers not to do anything, which is unusual, because normally the PRI respond by physically attacking any opposition or criticism of them. He just feels so on the defensive that he has to tell his thugs not to do anything. At the moment, suddenly, the election is thrown open. Of course, Peña Nieto is still the favorite. Even if it becomes a close election, the PRI are experts in electoral fraud, and they won’t hesitate in doing it again. The PAN got away with it in 2006 and the PRI will get away with it this year. But, if it’s a very obvious electoral fraud, there could be a massive backlash. Of course the other two parties are trying to manipulate the situation.  The PAN called an anti-EPN march. Quite a lot of people went to it, but it was an obvious attempt by the PAN to jump on the bandwagon. López Obrador had a meeting with the students in this symbolic place where the massacre happened in 1968, about a week before the Yo Soy 132 meeting, but again this was another attempt to manipulate the movement.

Because of the origins of this movement, most of the left, me included, was very dubious about it. You know, a movement by rich private students against Peña Nieto: this doesn’t make sense.  So, there has been a lot of diffidence towards the movement by the historic left: the institutional left and the extra-parliamentary left. A lot of people, students and faculty, in my university seemed wary of this movement.

CW: Are they trying to influence the movement? Is anybody from the Other Campaign trying?

Patrick: Yes, of course they are trying to jump in on the bandwagon. But, they just said it in a manifesto that they put out (which I translated and put up on facebook) that it is a non-party movement. They are against Peña Nieto; they are against the PRI.Peña Nieto is a fascist and he has shown that again and again—the way he repressed the movement in Atenco was completely fascist. If he becomes president, that’s going to be his political style, just really hard-line, vicious repression: use of rape against arrested women, things like that. Of course he’s tried to moderate his image, recently. Above all we know who’s behind him. He himself is completely stupid—someone who can’t come up with the names of three authors or books that are important in his life. So, in reality, when he is president he won’t be president—there will be people behind him telling him what to do. The most important of those will be Carlos Salinas, the president between 1988 and 1994 and the architect of NAFTA, which has devastated the Mexican economy and has caused so much poverty, and which kicked off the Zapatista rebellion in 1994, on the 1st of January, which was when it came into operation. So, we know who’s going to be the real president of Mexico: Salinas (not to mention Obama). Salinas is a drug traffiker as well, a real mafioso.  His brother Raul went to prison for several years for his drug traffiking and for the assassination of Luis Colosio, the PRI’s maverick presidential candidate in 1994. Salinas is a neoliberal drug lord and one of the lynchpins of global neoliberalism, he would have become president of the WTO in 1994 but the Zapatistas rained on his parade. He will just devastate an already devastated country. So, the movement is non-party, but it is not apolitical, as it has been accused of by some people on the intellectual left. It is against the PRI and it is against Peña Nieto above all.  That does not mean it is pro-López Obrador or pro-Vasquez Mota (the candidate of the PAN who is on the right of an extreme right-wing, clerical, neoliberal party). In my first reaction to this movement, I thought that this looks like a movement of the PAN, because it is strong in private universities. But it seems it is not. It is rather a movement that wants to radically reform things in a non-violent way. It is, I repeat, a moderate students movement, not a radical movement like the Onda Anomola in Italy or the Red Square movement in Canada. Maybe it is more like the English students movement in 2010. Of course the English students movement had some pretty radical elements in it, they attacked and set fire to the HQ of the Tory Party!  Maybe now that the public universities are involved it will become more radical. It’s obviously not as radical as the 1999-2000 UNAM CGH (Consejo General de Huelga/General Strike Council) student occupation movement when they had a strike for one year and they shut down Mexico’s most important public university to stop even minimal fee hikes, which has had a lasting effect in slowing down the neoliberalization of the Mexican public university compared to most other countries.

CW: What is the relationship between this student movement and the universities themselves? You’ve been talking a lot about their relation with electoral politics, but do they have any focus on changing universities?

Patrick: I think this movement was born in the middle of a really dull election campaign that seemed dominated by a corrupt, fascist candidate, and they have hit the nail on the head that this candidate depends on the support of the media, and therefore, the media have to be reformed. Of course the reform of the media is crying out, but the political class are unable to do it because they are completely corrupt and at the behest of the media. So if there is a reform of the media in Mexico, it will have to come from below. This movement will go on after the July 1st presidential campaign. That’s evident. There’s this huge upswell of support for it. It will hopefully last like the Occupy Wall Street movement, going on for months if not years. So, therefore, after the presidential campaign is over, the movement has to focus on what is going on in the universities, which are being privatized and neoliberalized on the sly. They already put in their manifesto, in their demands, which will now go to a general assembly on Wednesday May 30th in the UNAM—which is the biggest university in the Americas, 500,000 students—this document that they produce will have to be ratified by that meeting. I think it’s going to be huge, tens of thousands of people. It’s really exciting… I haven’t felt like this for years, about any movement. Out of despair has come hope. One of the demands is that all higher education must be free, secular and of high quality—like the Chilean student movement. In fact, in their demands, they are calling to build links with the Chilean student movement and Occupy Wall Street. Unfortunately, they didn’t mention the Montreal student movement. The press coverage of that movement has been non-existent.  So, it is exciting that they want to build those links and by doing so this will help to radicalize further the movement and reduce the influence of left nationalism and lopez obradorism.

Occupy Wall Street has introduced this term of “The Mexican Spring,” but I think it’s too early to talk about a Mexican Spring. Obviously the movement here is not yet as radical or as important as the Arab Spring, especially the one in Tunisia and Egypt. We can’t talk about regime change yet. But, if the impossible happens, and we do defeat the PRI and their attempt to have an electoral fraud… The movement is already mobilizing massively to prevent electoral fraud. There are always people present in voting stations during elections, but I think this time, it’s going to be literally dozens of people in every voting station to stop electoral fraud (ballot stuffing, stealing of electoral urns, all the usual shenanigans that the PRI get up to on election day). I think it’ll be much harder for the PRI to have an electoral fraud. Until this, what would have been an unimaginable situation, if Lopez Obredor does get elected, there will be massive demonstrations demanding immediate constitutional, political reform, to get rid of this all-powerful presidential figure that dominates Mexican politics. I think regime change is not completely out of the question. We have to see how things go in the next few weeks. The forces of reaction are gathering. They’ve been hit, humiliated, kicked where it hurts—but you can’t rule them out. They’ve been in power for 82 years, and they’re not going to give up power easily. They control the media, the universities, and the political parties (including those of the center left). At the moment, they really don’t know how to deal with this movement, because I think they realize that if they simply repress it, it’ll grow—like in Egypt or in the US with Occupy Wall Street. Then again, it’s a movement that’s hard to co-opt, because it’s non-party, it’s not for sale to the other candidates. Of course, it does have this huge cleavage between rich, privately educated students who are tendentially politically conservative, more likely to favor the PRI or PAN, and the politically more radical, working class, lower middle class, and middle class students in public universities. So there are major social and political divides within the movement that the forces of reaction are going to work hard on to divide the movement in these upcoming weeks. The same happened in Egypt—there were obvious divisions between the Muslim Brotherhood and the left—but the movement held together. So, let’s hope that the movement holds together from the attacks of the forces of reaction from both the right and the institutional left.

This is Part 1 of 2 of an interview with Patrick Cuninghame (Professor at UAM Xochimilco (the Metropolitan Autonomous University); participant in the EZLN’s Other Campaign), conducted on May 28th, 2012. We’ll post Part 2 of the interview soon.

2 Comments

Filed under activism, film and video, political repression, protests, student movements

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Russian society

What Happens to You in Petersburg if You Blow the Whistle on Vote Rigging

www.zaks.ru
June 1, 2012

Vasileostrovsky District Court [in Petersburg] handed down a decision in the [defamation] suit filed by district education department head Natalya Nazarova against teacher Tatyana Ivanova. The court ruled partly in favor of the plaintiff: for her interview [published in Novaya Gazeta], Ivanova must pay the plaintiff compensation of 30 thousand rubles [approx. 720 euros], and Novaya Gazeta and Novaya Gazeta v Peterburge must publish a rebuttal, our correspondent reports. However, lawyers for the newspaper’s Moscow and St. Petersburg editions, Natela Ponomaryova and Ekaterina Sedova, have already promised to appeal the decision of the Vasileostrovsky court.

Tatyana Ivanova was supported in court today not only by her students, but also by [Petersburg] Legislative Assembly deputy Boris Vishnevsky and Moscow journalist Olga Romanova. The verdict was greeted with cries of “Shame!” Ivanova’s students stood at the entrance to the courthouse with a placard that read, “Parents, protect your children from Nazarova.” Ivanova herself does not agree with the decision of the court, although she expected this outcome.

“I don’t know how the judge is feeling. But if I were in the judge’s shoes, I would be ashamed to make such a decision,” Ivanova told journalists after the verdict was announced.

Tatyana Ivanova was forced to resign from her position at School No. 575 after she gave an interview to Novaya Gazeta in which she described Natalya Nazarova’s alleged direct involvement in vote rigging during the December [2011 Russian parliamentary] elections. Nazarova responded by filing suit against the teacher, as well as the media that published the interview and the journalist who conducted it, for allegedly defaming her professional reputation. Nazarova demanded 100,000 rubles as compensation for moral damage.

Leave a comment

Filed under political repression, Russian society

Petersburg “Law Enforcement” Continue to Persecute Activist Filipp Kostenko

Filipp Kostenko on the tenth day of his hunger strike

memorial.spb.ru

After fifteen days of jail and a hunger strike, Filipp Kostenko, employee of the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, a human rights organization, has not been released: the persecution against him continues 

December 21, 2011

On December 21 at 7:30 p.m., the fifteen days of administrative arrest to which Filipp Kostenko, an activist and Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center employee, was sentenced after he was detained during protests against vote rigging in the [recent Russian parliamentary] election, expired, but Kostenko was not released as scheduled.

Kostenko was arrested for taking part in mass protests after the parliamentary elections. In protest, the activist went on hunger strike, demanding the release of all people detained during the protests. The hunger strike lasted all fifteen days he was in jail. His lawyers appealed the decision to arrest him, but the judge turned down the appeal. At the same time, a complaint was filed with the European Court of Human Rights and has already been registered.

At the time scheduled for Kostenko’s release, colleagues, friends, and journalists were gathered outside the detention center at Zakharievskya, 6. Eyewitnesses report that Center “E” [anti-“extremism”] police entered the building right at the time Kostenko was to be released. When Kostenko was not released at the time stipulated by the court, his lawyer went into the building to find out why. It turned that the decision had been made to immediately re-detain the hunger-striking activist and transport him to a police precinct for compulsory delivery to court on another administrative [misdemeanor] charge. Thus Kostenko has found himself back in jail, this time in a police precinct, until his new court hearing.

The compulsory delivery decision was made by Judge E.K. Yermolina for failure to appear in court on December 9 (that is, when Kostenko was already serving a fifteen-day sentence at the Zakharievskaya, 6 detention facility, a fact well known to law enforcement officials). This decision cannot be regarded as anything other than a deliberate plan to continue persecuting him.

The new court hearing is scheduled for December 22 at 10:50 a.m. in Judicial Precinct No. 153 at Bolshaya Raznochinnaya, 23. Kostenko has been charged with petty disorder for allegedly using foul language on the Petrovskaya Embankment on October 17 of this year.

The continued detention of Filipp Kostenko is obviously politically motivated: for all intents and purposes, it is retaliation for his activism and involvment in protests. In these circumstances, given his continuing hunger strike and the danger that he will be given yet another unjust jail sentence, Filipp Kostenko is in vital need of support from the public and attention from independent media.

Photo courtesy of Free Voina

_____

www.avaaz.org/en/russias_corruption

It’s outrageous – after flagrant vote-rigging and decades of corruption, the crooks-in-chief are throwing anti-fraud leaders into the jails they should be sitting in themselves.

The government is terrified of mass public protest. They know their credibility is at its lowest after blatantly rigging the election and are responding with the usual dirty tactics: mass arrests, blocking critical websites and filling the streets with troops. Despite this heavy-handedness, Putin has to appear responsive to the public in the run-up to presidential elections – and if we raise a massive outcry now, we can press him to release these brave activists and demonstrate that the cry for accountability has only just begun.

Let’s build a massive petition to show that our movement can’t be jailed or silenced.

When we reach 20,000 signers, we’ll deliver our call to free the protest leaders to Putin and broadcast it on major Russian media. Add your voice for their freedom now, and forward widely.

Editor’s Note. Sign the Avaaz petition here. It’s not that this will help our comrade Filipp that much, but it certainly cannot hurt. If you forward this petition to your friends and colleagues, make sure to forward this information about Filipp’s plight as well. If you need any information about his case or where to address your protests and calls for his immediate release, please write to us at the address indicated in the sidebar.

1 Comment

Filed under activism, political repression, protests, Russian society

Amnesty International to Russian Authorities: Free Sergey Udaltsov!

www.amnesty.org

UA: 356/11 Index: EUR 46/045/2011 Russian Federation Date: 13 December 2011

URGENT ACTION

Opposition leader held for protest attempt

Russian opposition leader Sergey Udaltsov has been in detention in Moscow since 4 December, solely for attempting to lead peaceful protests against alleged election fraud. He is in need of medical treatment and should be released without delay.

Leader of the political movement Left Front, Sergey Udaltsov, aged 34, is currently held in a detention centre in Moscow. He is being denied adequate medical treatment that he requires following several hunger strikes while in detention over the past weeks. He has problems with his kidneys and reportedly lost consciousness a few times while in detention. A doctor has told his lawyer that he believes Sergey Udaltsov needs hospital treatment.

On 4 December, the day of parliamentary elections in Russia, Sergey Udaltsov was detained outside a metro station in Moscow by plain-clothed officers and sentenced to five days administrative arrest, for allegedly refusing to obey lawful police orders. A friend with him at the time told the court that the police report named a different location as the place of detention, and the officers did not immediately identify themselves as police.

On 7 December he was transferred to a hospital. The administrative arrest warrant expired on 9 December and he tried to leave hospital to go to a demonstration, but police forced him to stay in hospital, possibly to ensure he could not attend. On 10 December he was taken by police to a court and given another sentence of 15 days administrative detention, for allegedly having absconded from detention following an arrest on 12 October 2011. On 11 December, he was returned to hospital. On the morning of 12 December, police reportedly put pressure on his doctors, forcing them to release him and had him transferred back to the detention centre.

Amnesty International considers Sergey Udaltsov a prisoner of conscience, who should not be detained at all.

Please write immediately in Russian or your own language:

Urge the authorities to release Sergey Udaltsov immediately and to give him access to necessary medical care.

Call on the authorities to stop the harassment and persecution of peaceful protesters.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 24 JANUARY 2012 TO:

Head of Special Police Detention Centre Nr. 1
Colonel Dmitry Sukhov
Simferopolski Boulevard 2
117638 Moscow
Russian Federation

Fax: +7 499 317 1754

Salutation: Dear Colonel

Head of Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior for Moscow
Lieutenant General Vladimir Kolokoltsev
Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior for Moscow
Petrovka 38, 12706
Moscow
Russian Federation

Fax: +7 495 698 6631

Salutation: Dear Lieutenant General

And copies to:

Head of the Presidential Council on Development of Civil Society and Human Rights
Mikhail Fedotov
Staraya Ploschad 4
103132 Moscow
Russian Federation

Fax: +7 495 606 4855

Email: fedotov_MA@gov.ru

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

Additional Information

Sergey Udaltsov has been detained numerous times over the last two years for organizing or participating in peaceful protests. He had been detained twice in October 2011 for peacefully protesting against what he considered violations of election procedures, such as the denial of registration of opposition parties and the lack of public participation in politics in general. On 12 October he was sentenced to 10 days administrative arrest and spent the last days of this arrest term in hospital. He left the hospital on 20 October once he felt better. He was not under guard at that time and the doctors had not been instructed to send him back to the police detention centre. Eyewitness accounts and photo and video material seen by Amnesty International strongly suggest that he did not violate the law prior to being detained on 12 October.

Since October, Sergei Udaltsov has taken part in a number of public events. His address is well known to the police. His arrest on 10 December would appear to have been motivated primarily by the desire to prevent his participation in anticipated post-election protests.

1 Comment

Filed under leftist movements, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society

Pioneer Square, December 10, 2011 (Petersburg)

Pioneer Square, Petersburg, December 10, 2011. Rally for Fair Elections

“You can’t even imagine (represent) us”

ethnomet.livejournal.com

dspa.livejournal.com

Ksenia Yermoshina, student activist:

The BBC’s Richard Galpin spoke to Danil Klubov, a student, who said he joined the protesters in St Petersburg because he was “tired of all the falsehoods and lies.” Mr Klubov also said that many of those who took to the streets wanted President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to stand down.

Here is a 35-minute video from the rally that opens, alarmingly, with an appearance by someone identified by emcee Sergei Gulyaev as “Semyon Pikselyov, National Democrats.” Semyon begins his speech with the words, “Glory to Russia!” Unaccountably, Pikselyov is followed on stage by Artemy Troitsky, rock music critic and promoter, who appeals for prominent Petersburg cultural figures such as Boris Grebenshchikov and Mikhail Piotrovsky (director of the State Hermitage Museum, who ran as a “steam engine” on United Russia’s party list during the scandalous elections, but then promptly declined his mandate a couple days later) to go over to the opposition. Interestingly  for someone who shared the stage with a “national democrat” (i.e., a fascist), Troitsky is the son of Kiva Maidanik, who was a prominent Soviet and Russian expert on Latin America, and a friend of many Latin American leftist revolutionaries. [Correction: Although the “national democrat” in question was clearly identified by Gulyaev as “Semyon Pikselyov” and is also named as such in the annotation to the video linked to, above, a reader has pointed out that his real name is Semyon Pikhtelyov. Pikhtelyov is the leader of the Petersburg branch of DPNI, the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, a radical nationalist group. An article in yesterday’s edition of Kommersant Saint Petersburg claims that during the “march” from site of the originally planned “illegal” demonstration, Insurrection Square, to the venue for the “authorized” rally pictured here, the largest group (“approximately half a thousand people”) was led by Pikhtelyov. This group allegedly chanted “All for one, and one for all!” and “Onward, Russians!” (that is, “ethnic” Russians, not citizens of Russia) as they marched.]

sergey-chernov.livejournal.com

Demonstrators make their way to the rally from Insurrection Square, site of the “illegal” demo originally planned (via the social network VKontakte) for the day.

alert-dog.livejournal.com

sergey-chernov.livejournal.com

“There is no freedom of speech”

Leave a comment

Filed under film and video, protests, Russian society