…As Do the Authorities in Ingushetia and Dagestan

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 47

Kavkazky Uzel reported on December 2, the day of the State Duma elections, that voter turnout in Ingushetia was more than 70 percent. The following day, however, Russia’s Central Election Commission (TsIK) reported a turnout of 92.11 percent. On December 4, Kavkazky Uzel reported that Ingushetia’s election commission put the turnout at 98.35 percent, 98.72 percent of whom voted for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party.

Whatever the case, the official numbers concerning the turnout in Ingushetia differed sharply from what independent observers saw. The independent Ingushetiya.ru website on December 2 reported that according to local observers, no more than eight percent of the republic’s registered voters went to the polls.

Kavkazky Uzel on December 4 quoted an anonymous “regional expert” as saying that the official results were no surprise. “Everyone understood that the turnout would be ‘traditionally high’, he said. “One can, of course, argue about the percentage of voters, however that will not influence the election’s results, not to mention the fact that, as far as I know, not one of the regional branches of the parties that participated in the election process plans to contest [the results]. What I have no doubt about is United Russia’s first-place showing. I think that a majority of the voters voted for the party, although perhaps not in such numbers as the republican election commission reported.”

The “expert” said that President Vladimir Putin’s high rating and the passive positions of other political parties probably helped United Russia. “Some of the voters don’t know parties other than United Russia, the LDPR [Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia] and the KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation]. So are the results of the voting surprising?”

An anonymous Ingush political scientist told Kavkazky Uzel: “For the first time, an election campaign in Ingushetia took place without noise or hullaballoo. Only United Russia conducted active propaganda, in the form of several large posters, which were guarded round the clock by police. The other parties were not visible either on the eve of the elections or on Election Day. Moreover, there were extremely few observers from other parties at the polling stations. Members of the district election commissions could easily take advantage of that. Given 98 percent participation by citizens, lines should have formed at the polling stations. I didn’t see that. Nonetheless, the ‘necessary’ number for the results of the voting was sent to Moscow.”

According to official preliminary results, turnout in Dagestan on December 2 was 92 percent, with United Russia winning around 90 percent of the vote and the KPRF winning 8.56 percent. KPRF representatives in Dagestan insist the vote there was falsified and more than 100 members of the party gathered in Makhachkala on December 4 to protest the results. The first secretary of KPRF’s branch in Dagestan, Makhmud Makhmudov, said that “massive falsification” has been a feature of Dagestan’s elections since 1996. “Since that time, there have been more and more negatives in the elections,” he said. “And the mass violations reached their peak on December 2 … People understand that it’s a farce.” People in Dagstan registered their protest by not voting in the election, but the authorities made up for the low turn out by using their “administrative resources,” said Makhmudov.

For his part, Vladimir Yasnoi, a legal expert from the KPRF’s Central Committee, said the authorities in Dagestan grossly inflated the turnout by claiming that 1,300-1,500 people turned up at each polling station in the republic when in fact only 200-300 people came to each polling station. Kavkazky Uzel on December 4 quoted Yasnoi as saying that “outside people” were bussed in to polling stations where they were not registered and given ballots to vote—with five or six ballots going to each person in some cases. Meanwhile, KPRF members of the republic’s election commission were barred from or even thrown out of premises where ballots were being counted, Yasnoi charged. The KPRF has lodged formal complaints with the federal authorities about the alleged vote fraud in Dagestan and, more generally, will challenge the results of the voting nationwide in Russia’s Supreme Court.

According to the North Ossetia’s Central Election Commission, turnout in the republic was 60.3 percent, with 71.6 percent voting for United Russia and 10.88 percent voting for the KPRF. Kavkazky Uzel on December 5 quoted the head of the Union of Right Forces (SPS) branch in North Ossetia, Arkady Kadokhov, as saying that the ballots cast in the republic on December 2 were being tallied in the republic’s districts, not at the republic election commission’s headquarters as required by election law, in an effort to “adjust” the results. “If the elections had gone according to the [real] results, then the United Russia party would not have won more than 30 percent of the vote,” he said.

Sergei Markedonov, head of the Inter-Ethnic Relations Department at the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, said in a commentary for the Caucasus Times that the North Caucasus has long been a region in which elections, with their crushing victories for the “party of power,” bear no relationship to reality, Kavkazky Uzel reported on December 4. “It is not even a matter of mass falsification (even though the election headquarters of other parties are already presenting proof of this),” Markedonov said. “Or even of administrative resources, which, of course, are practically limitless there. From our point of view, the main problem is the significant gap between the formal and the real in the Caucasus region.” He added that the “triumphal success” in the Caucasus of the “party of power” could not affect “the objective processes and challenges.” This means that election results showing overwhelming victories for the incumbent authorities do not “lower the number of Islamic radicals in Dagestan,” nor “resolve the problems of refugees in the zone of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict,” nor “avert the possibility of Chechen separatism again becoming a real political force,” nor “stop terrorist acts in Ingushetia,” said Markedonov. “These numbers express nothing other than a high index of bureaucratic zeal and diligence.” He added that not a single problem in the Caucasus region would be solved without “the de-privatization of power and the replacement of the imperial style of governing the region.”

Markedonov concluded: “Therefore the victorious reports about success should not fool anyone. Elections and reality in the Caucasus are located in parallel dimensions that do not intersect with one another.”