Local and foreign observers have reported literally hundreds of election violations, of varying types and degrees, from across Russia.
Much of the activity appeared to have been focused on getting out the vote; some appeared, more directly, to involve ballot-stuffing and attempts to inconvenience or sideline the observers who might have revealed it. Some were committed by Electoral Commission staff themselves, according to DFRLab's ElectionWatch.
These attempts are noteworthy for the unease they betray in Russia’s ruling party and bureaucracy, given the long-term efforts the government has made to render elections controlled and predictable, such as jailing opposition leaders and imposing state control over the main TV stations.
The efforts to galvanize voters appear, from the MKH reports and the plethora of electoral advertising, to have been centrally driven, and reflect a concern with the turnout which will be the best indicator of Putin’s actual popularity.
Read alsoPutin not greeted by U.S., European leaders over elex win – mediaThe local ballot-stuffing may have been more a question of local initiative, although the full picture remained unclear at the time of this report. Nevertheless, it, too, seems to betray a lack of confidence in the system, and a lack of faith in Russian voters’ desire to vote for the same leader they have had, as either president or prime minister, for 18 years.
The efforts do, however, illustrate another point, and that is the courage, and dedication to transparency, of Russian voters. The vast bulk of the online material revealing cases of electoral violations came from Russian users. Many — such as the Navalny team — posted their evidence under their own names; thousands, across the country, entered polling stations with cameras and mobile phones to record what was going on.
There is no doubt that Putin will be declared the winner of Sunday’s election; but it is greatly to the credit of Russian civil society that so much will be known about the manner of his victory.