Campaign diary

Big Brother is back

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Vladimir Putin in Manezh Square this evening

by Sarah Hurst

Vladimir Putin looked to be awarding himself around 74 percent of the vote in his spectacularly fraudulent election today, a big increase on his relatively modest 63 percent in 2012. With about 40 percent of the votes counted, the triumphant president briefly appeared on stage in Moscow’s Manezh Square in front of an adoring, flag-waving crowd, and said that Russia is “doomed to success”.

The two most controversial regions included in the election produced the most absurd results: Crimea and Chechnya both claimed that over 90 percent of voters “chose” Putin. Western countries have said that they do not recognise the voting in Crimea, but that is a pointless gesture if Putin is still considered a legitimate president of Russia.

Crushed opposition

Second-placed candidate Pavel Grudinin from the Communist Party was disgruntled with his roughly 15 percent of the vote, saying that he had realised the election was dishonest. “Navalny was right, some votes were counted twice,” he complained. Vladimir Zhirinovsky apparently came third with about 7 percent and Ksenia Sobchak only managed just over 1 percent, with Grigory Yavlinsky faring even worse.

Earlier in the evening Sobchak appeared at Alexei Navalny’s campaign headquarters and asked him to debate with her on his YouTube channel. He agreed, and the discussion soon turned into a heated argument, with Navalny telling Sobchak that she was a total hypocrite for acting as an instrument of Putin, and Sobchak responding that he should have joined forces with her to unite the opposition. Navalny reminded Sobchak that he had spent 60 days in prison during his campaign, yet still travelled all over the country, and that dozens of his employees and volunteers had also served prison terms.

Navalny’s election boycott did not produce meaningful results, with the real turnout probably at least 30 percent even if authorities inflated it to 60 percent. The real turnout may have been relatively low, but that will soon be forgotten as Russians and the rest of the world wake up tomorrow facing another six years of Putin, and with it unimaginable death and destruction.

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