As Russia holds national elections for 450 seats in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, claims of election fraud [CBS report] and other violations began to surface on Sunday. One election monitoring group in Golos has already received more than 1,300 complaints, and Ilya Shablinsky, a coordinator of observers for the presidential Council on Human Rights, said that “[i]nformation about violations is coming constantly from various regions.” Among the various instances of voter fraud include young people voting in the name of elderly citizens unlikely to vote and poll workers dropping multiple sheets of paper into ballot boxes. Questions still remain as to whether these instances will incite protests similar to those in 2011, following the last Duma election.
This would not mark the first time Russia’s election process has drawn ire, both domestically and internationally. In 2011, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) stated that the Russian election was “characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation.” [JURIST report] There were allegations of voting fraud in both the 2007 and 2008 Russia elections as well. In 2008 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) [official website] expressed concerns [JURIST report] about Russia’s presidential elections due to alleged media restrictions and polling irregularities. In 2007 election monitoring groups Transparency International [advocacy website] and Golos stated that Russia’s parliamentary elections were rife with fraud and corruption [JURIST report]. Election observers from PACE and OSCE said the parliamentary elections were “not held on a level playing field” [JURIST report] due to strong media bias towards Putin and the United Russia party leading up to the election, widespread reports of harassment of opposition parties and a new election code that made it more difficult for smaller political parties go gain the seven percent of the vote necessary to serve on the State Duma. They also called Putin’s merging of the state with the United Russia party an abuse of power.