March 21, 2024

To Vote or Not to Vote?


To Vote or Not to Vote?
A voter in the last Russian presidential election, 2018.  Alexandr Podgorchuk/Klops.ru., Wikimedia Commons. 

The Kremlin pushed hard to increase voter turnout in last weekend's presidential elections, but options for citizens who opposed the current administration were limited. Verstka compiled a list of some modes of participation and protest. 

There were three candidates on the ballot alongside the incumbent president, Vladimir Putin, none of whom were critics of him or his presidency. They included the deputy of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Nikolai Kharitonov; the chairman of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Leonid Slutsky; and a member of the New People (Novie lyudi) Party, Vladislav Davankov.

Of these, Davankov was the only one who has not spoken in support of the war on Ukraine, which garnered him a fair amount of support. Earlier in March, Davankov polled at 7.4% among prospective voters, a distant second place to Putin's 81.8% support. The fact that Davankov did not openly speak in support of the war does not mean he is meaningfully opposed to it, especially since he has supported several pro-war bills in the Duma. 

Another way voters expressed protest at the polls was to invalidate ballots. A ballot without any candidate chosen will be thrown out, as will a ballot with more than one candidate selected. The number of invalid ballots is counted separately in the final election results, and the percentage can be compared to "uncommitted" votes cast in protest in US Democratic primary voting. 

The "Noon Against Putin" movement called for a more public display of protest: Organizers encouraged voters to arrive at the polls at noon on Sunday, March 17, en masse, to overwhelm polling locations. Protesters filled out their ballots for any candidate besides President Putin, or else wrote in names, such as "Alexei Navalny." 

The final option was to simply boycott the election, out of either dissent or apathy. 

As of late Sunday evening, Putin had been reported as the winner of the presidential race, with 88% of the vote.

 

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