Moscow, Election Ward 2733

This was my second experience of observation of the elections after the spring of 2012; this year the number of observers was much smaller.  I was to work at Election Ward 2733, in my neighbourhood, just fifteen minutes on foot from my home, that was very convenient as in 2012, I worked in another part of Moscow and had to spend the night at another observer’s place because the metro was already closed when we finished the vote counting.  The voting premises were organized at a school, the election commission consisted mostly of the teachers from that school.  The chairman was appointed in the beginning of this year, one could see that she did not know the rules too well yet.  There were three more observers besides me, but one of them was observing the elections for the first time and did not know well the procedure and two others were from the Civic Chamber and were rather passive.  The members of the election commission behaved very politely and kindly with the observers—it was quite the opposite to what I saw in 2012.  Besides the commission and observers, one more woman was present at the voting premises almost all the time, the members of the commission said she was from the local administration; but she didn’t try to interfere with their activities.

A kind of street parties was organised outdoors, as the authorities tried to catch a voter and to provide a high enough election turnout.  A ‘social centre’ was established in the entrance hall of the school, but I couldn’t understand what it was.  They also brought a laptop with external speakers to the voting premises and played again and again the same songs about Moscow that was a bit strange because it was the elections of the President, not of the Moscow mayor.  The songs were mostly Soviet, but of different styles, probably in order to capture the attention of various groups of people.

There were quite a lot of people, especially between twelve and three o’clock—up to 250 persons an hour.  The voting premises were provided with electronic ballot-boxes, so the observers didn’t have to count the voters manually, we just wrote out the figures from the displays every half an hour.  Only nineteen persons voted at home, without any incident.  It was one more good news; previously, voting at home was used by the election commissions as one more opportunity for falsifications.

Electronic ballot-boxes were used for the first time at that election ward, so people responded to them as to a strange marvel, but with a good sense of humour: some people couldn’t understand how to cast vote into the urn correctly, many took photos near the ballot box, or captured on video the process of ‘absorption’ of the ballot paper by the scanner.  Some people answered to the scanner when it said, ‘Thank you. You have polled your vote.’

It often seemed to me that no secrecy of ballot existed for many people at all.  Many voters were carrying their ballot papers from the polling booth to the ballot box openly, so that others could see their marks on the paper.  They just didn’t guess that they had a right not to show their ballot to everybody around.

The commission didn’t follow the rules properly, but the violations were not serious and were caused more by some piece of inaccuracy or by insufficient knowledge of the laws and instructions than by a fraudulent intent.  This was also quite different from what I saw in 2012 when a much more experienced chairman of an election commission was violating the regulations almost defiantly.  The behaviour of the election commission members, at least in Moscow, seems to have notably changed during these six years.

The general result: 1,905 persons took part in the voting of 3,259 voters registered at the electoral district, or 62 per cent.  Putin took premier place (that was not a surprise, unfortunately), this time with 1,335 votes, or 70 per cent.  With such a high level of national craziness no falsifications are necessary at all.  The Communist candidate, Pavel Grudinin, was the second one, but he got only 257 votes (13.5 per cent).  Grigory Yavlinsky, the main liberal candidate, got 58 votes and took the fourth place (nationwide, he took only the fifth place).  Fifty two persons voted against all the candidates, either taking their ballot papers home, or putting several marks instead of one so that the electronic ballot-box counted the paper as invalid.

It’s interesting to compare these results to the unofficial results of 2012 presidential elections.  According to independent calculations, the real election turnout was then 50 per cent, and 50 per cent of them voted for Putin.  It means the number of active Putin supporters was some 25 per cent of the total adult population, while another 25 per cent voted against Putin and 50 per cent didn’t take part in the voting.  This year, at least in ‘my’ electoral district, active supporters of Putin make some 44 per cent of total adult population, while only 19 per cent voted for his rivals.  Whether it was due to a ‘voter’s strike’ announced by Aleksei Navalny is a question that needs further investigation.  Anyway, 38 per cent of the voters preferred to stay at home or to go elsewhere; if they came to the election ward, the results of the voting could have been completely different…

Thanks to electronic ballot-boxes, I already came back home at half past eleven; if the commission had to count the ballot papers manually, it could have taken several hours.

As to my general mood now, it can be well described by a joke I heard right on the polling day.  Two friends are talking about each one’s news, and one of them says, ‘You see, I try to keep a healthy lifestyle recently, I don’t smoke any more, I drink no more alcohol, and I even began to go to a fitness-club.  I want very much to live up to Russia without Putin.’  I can understand him, really 😉