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Victor Sergeyev, Russian political analyst
"The democracy in Russia is obviously weak"
 real 28k

Monday, 11 September, 2000, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Putin won 'rigged elections'
Vladimir Putin displays his election identity card
The press claims ballot-boxes were stuffed with Putin votes
By Russian affairs analysts Stephen Dalziel and Malcolm Haslett

Allegations have emerged in a Moscow newspaper about widespread fraud in the election of Vladimir Putin as Russian President in March.

The Moscow Times claims that a six-month investigation has uncovered instances of ballot boxes being stuffed with votes for Mr Putin, bosses ordering employees how to vote, and the Central Electoral Commission inventing over a million extra voters.

Gennady Zyuganov
Mr Zyuganov claimed he had been cheated of 7m votes
The newspaper claims that its investigation into fraudulent election practices in March is the most thorough that has been undertaken.

The Moscow Times maintains that the findings suggest that there was sufficient falsification of the result to question its legitimacy.

According to the official result, Mr Putin was elected after polling almost 53% of the vote in the first round.

The defeated leader of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, immediately claimed that he had been cheated of 7m votes.

The Moscow Times does not say whether or not this figure is accurate.

But it does say that there were sufficient examples of fraud throughout the country for this to be possible.

Ballot-papers burnt

An election official in Dagestan told the newspaper how, three weeks after the vote, four officials removed sacks of votes that had been cast for Mr Zyuganov and burned them.

Old woman votes
Over 1m people were 'added' to voters' list
In two other regions with strong Muslim populations, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, the newspaper says voters and organisers reported a widespread conspiracy to stuff ballot boxes with pro-Putin votes.

In a number of other provinces, such as Kursk, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod and Mordovia, it says, regional governors resorted to a vertical chain of bullying to ensure that people voted for Mr Putin.

The newspaper also notes the widespread incredulity aroused by the official results from the delayed vote in Chechnya, where a majority were supposed to have voted for Putin - the man who sent Russian troops back into the rebellious republic.

Intimidation

Stories of intimidation, told by witnesses, include at least one case where the pen was taken from a voter's hand in the election booth and their vote cast for them.

But what the newspaper describes as its "most startling discovery" was that the number of voters officially registered, according to the website of the Central Electoral Commission, grew by 1.3m after the parliamentary elections in December last year.

Given Russia's declining population, the newspaper argues, this figure was highly improbable.

It concludes that most of these "extra voters" were either young people who had not yet reached voting age, or simply fictional inventions by officials.

International observers reported at the time that the elections had been marred by serious cases of fraud in some regions.

But they concluded that it was probably not sufficient to have changed the result.

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See also:

27 Mar 00 | Europe
Putin wins presidential race
09 Mar 00 | Media reports
Putin in his own words
08 Mar 00 | Europe
Why is Putin popular?
25 Mar 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
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29 Oct 99 | Europe
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