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World January 29, 2008
The Hand that Counts the Vote
By Kirill Pankratov Browse author

Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." That was Stalin's famous line summing up his attitude towards the electoral process. Today it rings just as true as when Stalin came up with that sinister aphorism.

Relevant in more ways and more places than one thought imaginable. Remember the 2000 US elections, "too close to call?" How was it eventually decided by the Supreme Court and the Florida electoral commission? The Supreme Court is in theory a non-partisan, objective and wise protector of the law. In reality its vote was cast strictly along party lines (5 Reps, 4 Dems). No miracle of objective judgment was evident – it was all about who managed to place more of their cronies into the heart of the System. Moreover, the controversial election went down in Florida where the brother of the "winner" just happened to be that state's governor, and the head of Florida's elections process just happened to be a like-minded Republican.

Had irregularities like these occurred in any other country, it would be denounced as a terrible example of dirty elections and massive corruption in a pathetic banana republic. Not that this doesn't describe the actual case of today's USA.

But let's turn to some of the most recent examples of shady elections. In the last two months there were two elections in the former USSR countries: in Russia and the Republic of Georgia. The Russian Duma (parliamentary) elections were held on December 2, 2007. It was, as they used to write during the Brezhnev years, a "triumph of Soviet democracy." Russia, to say the least, doesn't exactly have a stellar record of clean elections. But this time it was simply grotesque. The ruling United Russia party swept the ballots with 64% of vote. The only "opposition" that got into the Duma were two leftwing parties – stale Zuganov's communists and a newfangled Kremlin's creation Just Russia. Its leader, Sergei Mironov, is an old ally of Putin. He ran in the presidential elections of 2004 with the only goal (by his own admission) of helping the Kremlin legitimize the elections in case all other candidates withdrew at the last moment. Oh, yeah, and of course Zhirinovsky's "liberal-democrats," often painted as scary fascists in the western media, but in fact are harmless court jesters well past their prime. This year the party included on its election roster Andrey Lugovoi, whom Britain considers a prime suspect in the Litvinenko poisoning. Guess the chances of Lugovoi's extradition to the UK moved from "in your dreams" to a timeshare vacation at a skiing resort in Hell.

Russia's "liberal" opposition parties such as the SPS (Union of Right Forces) and Yabloko barely registered in the final count, with slightly more than 1% of the votes. And that was probably the least fraudulent figure. The liberals have been gradually losing public support for years, ever since their glory days in the late 90's. You would think that at this point, by the 2007/8 elections, they would have changed their strategy, revamped their leadership and tried to appeal to more mainstream voters. Instead they taken on the role of what's called now "demshiza"– democrat/schizophrenics: the townsquare loons, noisy but irrelevant.

And another thing was glaringly obvious – the massive, blatant fraud in many provincial districts used to pad United Russia's vote. Aside from all the signs of manipulating voter lists and the final vote count, there was indisputable statistical evidence of outright fraud. The voter turnout histogram shows a very strange picture indeed: a roughly even distribution with a maximum of around 60%, but after a decline near the 80-90% level, a sharp rise again around the 100% turnout figure (see, for example, The regions which had supposed 100% turnout levels also had a very high incidence of near-100% voting in favor of United Russia.

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