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Putin and Chavez: Rigging Electoral Coups

John on November 30, 2007 at 11:20 am

First up, Putin, from the Guardian:

The Kremlin is planning to rig the results of Russia’s parliamentary elections on Sunday by forcing millions of public sector workers across the country to vote, the Guardian has learned.

Local administration officials have called in thousands of staff on their day off in an attempt to engineer a massive and inflated victory for President Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party. Voters are being pressured to vote for United Russia or risk losing their jobs, their accommodation or bonuses, the Guardian has been told in numerous interviews with byudzhetniki (public sector workers), students and ordinary citizens.

[...]

“We are seeing a new phenomenon where voters are forced to get absentee ballots under threat of being sacked or being denied bonuses,” she said. “People are then instructed to vote at their workplace where everything is tightly controlled.” The spokesman said the pressure applied to private businesses as well as state-run enterprises.

Students have been told they risk the prospect of failing exams or being removed from courses if they do not vote for United Russia. Alexander, a journalism student at Oryol State University, said: “It’s been made very clear that students who don’t get absentee ballots and vote the right way could lose their place in the dormitory.”

Anna, 31, a schoolteacher in Ulan Ude, said: “We were called to the staff room in my school about a month ago and asked to sign a formal declaration promising that we would vote for United Russia. I told them that I wanted to vote for another party, but they told me to sign it in such a manner that there was no way to refuse. They hinted I could lose my job.”

A librarian in Buryatia region said she had been promised a premium on her salary if she voted for United Russia.

Interestingly, it’s bloggers who are fighting this attempted coup:

Bloggers on Russia’s most popular social networking site, Livejournal, have posted numerous accounts of intimidation. One in Murmansk wrote that he was told that if he didn’t vote for United Russia “the management would get it in the neck”.

Another in Yekaterinburg wrote: “Today my wife came home in shock. As the boss of a state company she has been told that all her workers living in different parts of town must take absentee ballots and go to vote in Kirovsky district. She has to go and sit all day on December 2 and call round everyone in her collective. Then she has to provide a list of who has voted.” She then received a directive warning her to add anybody who didn’t vote for United Russia to a list, and later those people would be “called to the office” of the local administration.

Not that the truth matters in a dictatorship:

In a leak to Russian media this week, one senior election official said that regional governors had been told to deliver at least 65% of the vote for Putin’s party, an “unrealistically high” total that could be achieved only through electoral fraud and by compelling people to vote.

“The elections are going to be falsified,” said Mikhail Delyagin, an economist and the director of Moscow’s Institute on Globalisation Problems. “The elections that took place in the Soviet Union were less falsified than this one.”

Boy was Bush ever wrong about this guy.

Moving on to a guy he wasn’t wrong about…Hugo “red shirt” Chavez is having a tougher time destroying the constitution of Venezuela:

More than 100,000 marchers flooded the streets of Caracas yesterday to protest against proposed constitutional changes that would dramatically widen the powers of President Hugo Chavez.

As polls predicted an agonisingly close result in Sunday’s referendum, legions of protesters stormed along the Venezuelan capital’s central avenue, blowing whistles, waving placards and shouting “Not like this!”

Some taunted “Shut up!” echoing a outburst by King Juan Carlos of Spain at a recent summit, which has become a popular ring tone among students.

There were no official counts of those present but Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition politician, estimated that at least 160,000 had taken part in the demonstration, the official close of the campaign against the proposed reforms.

Chavez has promised a pro-dictatorship rally three times the size of this one. I guess with enough brown shirts, it’s possible.

Bottom line: It’s not an election if you cheat.

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