Are Russian Elections Rigged?: Opinion Polls Speak Louder Than Western Rhetoric

The notion that Russian elections are systemically rigged to keep the “party of power” in, well, power is so prevalent and accepted in journalistic, political, and academic discourse in the West that it has little need of supporting documentation. Taking the 2007 Duma elections as an example, they were described as “not fair” by OSCE, “managed” by the head of the PACE observer team, and (possibly) “neither free nor fair” by the British Foreign Office. A German government spokesperson flatly stated that “Russia is not a democracy.”

The storm of condemnation in the media, unrestrained by any need to respect even a bare minimum of diplomatic protocol, was all the more shrill (e.g., The Economist claimed there was “[no] doubt that the poll was rigged”). As for established academia, suffice to say that a standard cornerstone of recent Kremlinology was an article titled “The Myth of the Authoritarian Model: How Putin’s Crackdown Holds Russia Back”, published immediately after that election. Its author, Michael McFaul, was recently appointed to be US Ambassador to Russia.

All in all fairly damning, no? But statistics speak louder than rhetoric. As I show in this post, the results of opinion polls have historically closely tracked actual Russian election results. This is a powerful argument against elections fraud. If the Kremlin does falsify elections, it is uniquely incompetent at it. Let’s take a closer look at the last four elections.

Russian presidential election, March 2008

OSCE refused to monitor this election in advance, ostensibly because of “severe restrictions” on its observers (the Russian Foreign Ministry denied it). The Economist said the “figures were massaged.”

Now let’s take a look at the opinion polls. According to Levada, Medvedev’s 71% mandate was exactly the same as the percentage of Russians who voted and later recalled casting a ballot for him. Zyuganov, of the Communists, got slightly less than those post-elections poll results indicated; Zhirinovsky, of the nationalist Liberal Democrats, got slightly more. Turnout was exactly the same: 69.7% according to the Central Electoral Commission, 71% according to Levada (with a further 2% who didn’t remember).

Furthermore, as of 8-11 February a huge majority of 80% intended to vote for Medvedev, which is significantly higher than the 71.3% who actually did so. Zhirinovsky’s rating of 9% translated into a straightforward 9.5% in the elections, as did the liberal Bogdanov’s <1% into 1.3%. Zyuganov’s 18.0% result was almost double that of his 11% rating. What kind of fraud is it when the “establishment” candidate gets fewer votes in real life than in opinion polls while his competitors get more?

Russian legislative election, December 2007

As mentioned above, many people – at least outside Russia – were unhappy with the Duma elections of 2007 (or maybe with their results, as no “real” opposition parties got in; “real” in their case being defined as anti-Putin, liberal, and not Communist). But look at the graph below, where the results of Levada voting intentions polls are graphed from May 2004 to the eve of the elections in November 2007 (the data points for December 2007 represent the actual results). Does the December point look wildly out of place, as one might expect if the elections were widely falsified?

[Click to enlarge. NOTES: Rodina Aug-Dec04 adds Glazyev & Rogozin factions; Rodina from Sept06 is with Fair Russia; Apr06 is for combined bloc of SPS+Yabloko so each one’s rating is divided in half; Nov07 is average of two polls.]

Thought not. As of November 2007, taking the average of two polls, voting intentions were 67% for United Russia, 13% for the Communists, 7% for Liberal Democrats, and 5% for (social-democratic) Fair Russia. The actual results, respectively, were 64.3%, 11.6%, 8.1%, and 7.8%. The “true” opposition, i.e. the Russian liberals, also got results that closely tallied with their popularity (in Russia, that is, not Washington DC think-tanks). Yabloko got 1.6% (voting intentions: 2%) and the Union of Right Forces (SPS) got 1.0% (voting intentions: 1%); both were beaten out by the Agrarian Party. Sour losers don’t “dissidents” make.

Russian presidential election, March 2004

In early December 2003, 52% of Russians were ready to vote for Putin; this rose to 61% by mid-month. The two other main candidates, Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky, experienced tanking approval ratings: the former to 7%, the latter to 5% by mid-December. In the event, neither of them decided to run. By January, some 71% of Russians said they would vote for Putin. This compared with 3% for Glazyev (of the Rodina party, which would later evolve into Fair Russia), 1% for Kharitonov (of the Communist Party, in Zyuganov’s stead) and 1% for the liberal Khakamada. Everybody else scored 0%, with 8% saying they wouldn’t vote and 11% undecided. Putin had dominant support from the constituencies of all parties, with even 49% of the Communists and 67% of (liberal) Yabloko and SPS members saying they’d vote for him.

According to the final elections poll in February 2004, of Russians who intended to vote some 69.3% of Russians said they would vote for Putin (real result: 71.3%); 5.4% for Kharitonov (real result: 13.7%); 3.5% for Glazyev (real result: 4.1%); and 2.2% for Khakamada (real result: 3.8%). As in 2008, the “establishment” candidate actually lost votes relative to his competitors from what the opinion polls indicated!

Russian legislative election, December 2003

This election was (supposedly) “fundamentally distorted” and “failed in meeting many OSCE and international standards.” (A reminder of the political context: a growing rift in Russia – West relations over the Iraq War and Khodorkovsky’s arrest).

[Click to enlarge. NOTES: Oct03 is average of 2 polls].

As with the 2007 Duma elections, the data point at the end of the series represents the actual election results. United Russia got 37.6%, the Communists got 12.6%, the Liberal Democrats got 11.5%, Rodina got 9.0%, (left-liberal) Yabloko got 4.3%, and (right-liberal) Union of Right Forces (SPS) got 4.0%. A month previously voting intentions had been, respectively, 29%, 23%, 8%, 3%, 6%, and 6%.

The jump in support for United Russia does seem a bit suspicious, but may be explained by a popularity boost in the wake of Khodorkovsky’s arrest (at least for a time, this appeared to void the Communist trope that United Russia was a slave of the oligarchs). The fast rise of social-democratic Rodina, with its nationalist bent, may also explain why the KPRF plummeted. Nonetheless, of all the elections in the 2000’s, this one seems to be the least in line with what might have been expected based on the opinion polls: the only parties to see more votes than the last opinion polls had indicated – United Russia, Fair Russia, and Rodina – were all pro-Kremlin.

Russian Elections In 2000 And Earlier

Russia’s elections in the 1990’s probably weren’t any cleaner than under Putin. In particular, the 1996 election – featuring a tense runoff between Yeltsin and Zyuganov – was marred by campaign funding scandals and one-sided television coverage (though the consensus is that Yeltsin would have won in any case). Allegations of similar misuse of administrative resources would become ubiquitous only under Putin. The eXile has a good account of this mendacity in How do you spell Hypocrisy? O-S-C-E in its trademark shrill and outraged style.

Obviously, you wouldn’t learn much about this by listening to the Western MSM. In the 1990’s, Yeltsin was the man who stood against Communism’s return, and thus deserved their unconditional support. Western criticism only began in earnest from around 2003, when there appeared a growing rift between Russia and the West; and the accusations of electoral fraud reached a crescendo in 2007-8, by which time the so-called “New Cold War” was in full swing (despite that the results of those elections very closely mirrored opinion polls, unlike in 2003).

Opinion Polls Speak Louder Than Western Rhetoric

The inescapable conclusion is that election results in Russia, by and large, mirror public opinion; in all elections but the 2003 Duma elections, the “establishment” party or candidate had garnered fewer votes than was indicated by polls of Russians’ voting intentions a few weeks beforehand.

There are several possibilities for why that is the case. First, we could accept that the Russian electoral process is essentially free and honest (otherwise, far bigger gaps between the results of opinion polls and the ruling party’s election results would have been expected). Second, we can assume that it isn’t free and honest, but that United Russia’s fraud is counterbalanced by fraud on behalf of other parties (this isn’t as absurd as it sounds, as the Communists have also been accused of using “administrative resources” to skew votes in areas under their control). Third, we may posit that the opinion polling organizations themselves are compromised by the Kremlin, churning out results that don’t reflect Russian public opinion.

The third possibility can be dismissed pretty much out of hand. I will remind readers that Lev Gudkov, the current director of the independent Levada Center, writes stuff like this: “Putinism is a system of decentralized use of the institutional instruments of coercion… hijacked by the powers that be for the fulfillment of their private, clan-group interests.” Doesn’t exactly sound like the biggest fan of the regime, right?

Use Occam’s Razor. Russia’s elections might be far from Scandinavian standards, and in a few regions – Ingushetia and Chechnya foremost among them – they are, in fact, blatantly fixed. But they are the exception, not the rule – which is that Russian elections are largely free.

(This is not to say that they are fair, because of unequal TV access to the candidates, restrictions such as the 7% threshold for entry into the Duma, etc.; to varying degrees, all democracies suffer from these or similar factors. To what extent Russia’s elections are unfair relative to other democracies – e.g. the gerrymandered US; first-past-the-post Britain; the thirty or so other democracies without elections of governors, etc – should be the real object of discussion. But engaging in rhetoric about the neo-Soviet Putin dictatorship is far more fun, supports Western foreign policy objectives, and most importantly, sells more copies.)

Russian legislative election, December 2011

Current trends in opinion polls reflect just how much the priorities of the media are out of sync with public opinion. In recent months, the liberal commentariat has seized on Navalny’s characterization of United Russia as a “party of thieves and swindlers,” and hopeful editorials such as Miriam Elder’s Russians uniting against United Russia are blossoming. A lot of ink is spent on the emergence of the People’s Freedom Party (a more compact name for Russia Without Corruption And Lawlessness, a recent coalition of 1990’s-vintage liberals) and Right Cause (basically, a re-branded Union of Right Forces (SPS); the oligarch Prokhorov, who supports Medvedev’s modernization agenda, is expected to play a prominent part in it).

But back in the real world, attitudes remain distinctly unchanged. As you can see in the graph below, United Russia is now slightly less popular than it was a year ago, but it is still far more attractive to voters than the other parties by a huge margin (or even itself in the 2003 elections).

[Click to enlarge.]

As for the new kids on the block, only 2% of Russians intend to vote for People’s Freedom, and Right Cause is so unknown that it is lumped into the “Other” category which has a total of 2% voting intentions (perhaps not that surprising when you consider that Prokhorov once advocated a 60-hour workweek). Nonetheless, I’m sure that the almost certain failure of these two liberal parties, both darlings of the Western media, to achieve any success whatsoever will be blamed on the machinations of the Kremlin.

My prediction? Nothing comes out of Right Cause or People’s Freedom (or Putin’s Popular Front for that matter). Communists get 10-15%, and the Liberal Democrats and Fair Russia just make the 7% cut. United Russia ekes out more than 50%, but less than the 2/3 constitutional majority. Various journalists, democracy watchdogs, etc. will have a field day, but criticism will be more muted than in 2007 because of the new political atmosphere of “Reset.”

You can read my thoughts on the 2012 Presidential elections in my post On The Necessity Of Subjecting Kremlinologists (And Social Scientists) To Market Discipline.

PS. In the graphs, I incorrectly labelled the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia as LPDR. It should, of course, be LDPR.


    • On scanning through your link, I’ve noticed that there basically seem to be two arguments:

      (1) High turnout strongly correlates with high results for UR.
      But as I said in April 2008 when Illarionov made the same argument, this isn’t necessarily indicative of fraud because voters can be more likely to vote in general when UR has their strong support; in regions where their support is lower, more of them may be expected to be apathetic and thus not bother voting.

      (2) At least in Moscow, there are spikes in turnout at increments of 5%, and far more districts display very high turnouts at stations where the ballots are processed by hand as opposed to machine.
      This induces far more suspicions than the previous argument (though this approach isn’t new either; podmoskovnik’s national analysis showed small spikes from the bell curve in numbers of stations registering 70%, 75%, etc. votes for UR in the 2007 elections) and strongly indicate the Moscow Duma elections have become increasingly tampered with to 2008.

      All this provides useful context, but I don’t think it challenges my main point – that national elections (and it is national elections, not regional ones, that determine the democratic legitimacy of the current regime) closely concur with opinion polls; and hence do largely reflect voter preferences.

      • All this provides useful context…

        No, this rather provides a direct answer to the question in your title. “Are Russian Elections Rigged?” Yes, they are — so what exactly is your point again?

        • Well that answer depends to what extent elections have to be falsified if they are to count as “rigged.” Is it anything greater than 0% of the votes? If so, Russia’s elections are rigged, as are those in practically every other democracy. Is it 2-5%? In that case many regional and municipal elections are rigged, but probably not the national ones. Is it >5%? If so, then they are almost certainly not rigged (outside Chechnya and Ingushetia) because they correspond to voter intentions and recollections too closely.

          As I pointed out, in 3 of the previous 4 national elections that were condemned in the West, the “establishment” party or candidate actually got a lower share of the vote relative to competitors than indicated by preliminary polling of voting intentions. This is not exactly what usually happens when there is large-scale vote rigging in favor of the ruling party or dictator.

          • Well that answer depends…

            No it doesn’t. If the irregularities described in the above article are even half true, then it’s a clear case of systematic election rigging. No two ways about it.

            … but probably not the national ones.

            It’s not about nationwide averages, not yet anyway, it’s rather about inflating turnout and avoiding local surprises.

            • Okay, fine. Russian elections are systematically rigged. So are American elections.

              Why does one country get to call itself the world’s preeminent democracy, while the other is consistently not rated a democracy at all? You’re going to have to come up with something better than rigged elections, apparently.

              Maybe it has to do with which country is richer and louder, and has the most loud, rich friends?

            • I haven’t studied your article in any detail, mostly because I’m busy with other things at the moment (e.g. bashing my head against the Great Wall of Chinese 汉字). Does it give a concrete percentage of votes that were falsified?

              I can see that the first pages of its argument are devoted to this graph that is well known in the Russian political blogosphere:

              As I said, I *don’t* think it is convincing. It is easily explained by the fact that where UR’s performance is bad, most voters don’t bother showing up (hence явка is low); but where it is good,, voters do show up (hence явка is high) and UR gets a lot of the votes.

              What I do find very suspicious – which I freely acknowledge – are the small spikes at intervals of 5% in the ; in all likelihood, these indicate rigging and the graph at that point should be smoothed over based on previous data points. But since the total reductions as a percentage of the whole from this exercise are going to be small, this can’t constitute evidence of “systematic election rigging.”

              • But since the total reductions as a percentage of the whole from this exercise are going to be small…

                Here we go again. I’ve already said (see the second half of my comment above) that the goal of “this exercise” is not necessarily to achieve large “total reductions as a percentage of the whole”.

                … this can’t constitute evidence of “systematic election rigging.”

                That’s semantics. If you don’t like “systematic”, make it “organized”.

              • Okay, point taken. Glad you agree that the overall quantity of falsifications isn’t necessarily huge.

                On to Point #2. I repeat – how big does the % extent of falsifications have to get before we can say that election rigging is “systematic” or “organized”? (You shy away from this question, but I think it’s crucial. To demonstrate with a minimal case, even in elections in countries recognized as democratic – e.g. the US – I’m sure you could find at least a few stations where the count was interfered with in favor of one party or the other. But it is completely insignificant in national terms – well, except when it becomes a swing state issue as in Florida 2000, but that’s another issue).

                Most of the evidence provided to this point indicates that the most prevalent form any falsification takes is fudging of the turnout figures at some stations (the 5% interval spikes are the “forensic evidence” of this). But where is the proof that any of this is organized from the center? Surely you need evidence of that – either that, or the presence of vote rigging on a truly convincing, say >5% of the votes scale (which we don’t), and which favor the ruling party! (again: note that KPRF has also been known to falsify) – before we can make conclusions of systematic election rigging?

                This is really an important issue that needs some rigor. Because as it stands, the dominant impression is that – at least in Russia’s case – election monitors judge the probity elections not by their technical qualities but on the basis of who got in (esp. liberals). E.g. see difference in reactions in 1996 and 2007/2008. And this doesn’t only remain in NGO reports and the media, but carries over into political life, as Russian elections (and consequently, their leaders) are delegimitized and thus more justification given for Western nations ignoring their concerns on global issues.

              • I repeat – how big does the % extent of falsifications have to get before we can say that election rigging is “systematic” or “organized”?

                It has to be statistically detectable. It’s ironic I have to explain this to a Global Warming alarmist.

                But where is the proof that any of this is organized from the center?

                So says the President of Russia: [В России] всё начинает работать или движется по сигналу из Кремля.

              • It has to be statistically detectable. It’s ironic I have to explain this to a Global Warming alarmist.

                And much like the AGW deniers, you leap on any statistical anomaly – be it natural or intentional action – to discredit the integrity of the entire process. To use your own analogy, just because climate scientists may on rare occasions have fudged their results, this does not mean that AGW is not a clear and growing existential threat or that they are under the central command of the IPCC or the Bilderbergers or whatever. Likewise with Russian elections, and incidences of fraud.

                So says the President of Russia

                He says nothing of the sort. I may have reading comprehension problems, but I saw nothing about rigging elections and quite a bit about the (defective, in DAM’s view) current distribution of powers between center and regions, especially municipalities.

              • He says nothing of the sort.

                It was a joke. Sorry, won’t happen again.

              • OK, sorry. You tend to make many bizarre interpretations, as I see things, so it didn’t much surprise me coming from you!

                Anyhow, there’s a special post coming soon responding to Shen’s arguments from Sergey. Just for you! 😉

            • It has to be statistically detectable.
              Peter, if you really read the pdf you have submitted, you will not see a single statistical test. (Hypotheses denoted H0 and H1 are a clear giveaway) And no formal model, either!

              There are histograms with suspicious turnout peaks – I have no idea, but in Prague the picture is very similar. No one has ever complained about transparency of elections in Prague.

              Now, everyone agrees that election results in some Russian regions, especially republics, are rigged. These places are also more rural and have a large number of small precintcs and wards. Any rigging that has occured there is, then, magnified, if you plot histograms of the number of wards. If we take Dagestan etc. out, will these see-saw histograms survive? Talking about Prague – there’s also quite a number of small election wards there. Are they driving my results?

              Then there is a deviation of the turnout distribution from the normal. Well, Central Limit Theorem requires some assumptions. If they are violated, you could get really, really wrong answer – as, i.e., in a problem of determining what’s the probability of observing >1000 males and no females passing along. It’s essentially zero if you assume independence (as is implicitly done in majority of the analyses), but is basically one if you are standing on the Red Square and the military parade is passing by. Again, this problem is related to some regions, where probability of observing high turnout is really high.

              Finally, on the analysis of votes for UR and DAM, and a comparison with Poland and Canada. Well, you see, UR is “the party of power”. DAM was a candidate from UR and then some. Still, all the analyses are implicitly making a homogeneity assumption – that conformist voters of UR and protest voters are just the same. Well, if you assume that conformism is positively correlated with propensity to vote, and that only UR and DAM got conformist votes, you are quite likely to see the very first graph where turnout is correlated with voting share for UR but not others. I’m not aware of presense of “party of power” in Canada and Poland in elections used for comparisons.

              OK. To summarize. I don’t consider Shen’s paper to be a “smoking gun”, especially after making an allowance for certain regions. I don’t think it referenced any proper statistical analyses – the two presentations taken from are making homogeneity assumption for sure. The NCEEER paper is more solid, but the only thing it shows is that it is republics, and mostly rural rayons in them, which are likely to deliver rigged election results.

              • Peter, if you really read the pdf you have submitted, you will not see a single statistical test…

                I didn’t say “statistically significant”, did I? I used “statistically detectable” in the layman’s sense: detectable by looking at statistical data of some sort. Those peaks at round figures are surely detectable enough to warrant looking into — at least out of idle scientific curiosity.

                Why don’t you post your Prague graph (and a link to source data) so we could see for ourselves what you’re talking about?

              • I don’t consider Shen’s paper to be a “smoking gun”

                It’s surely not, but none is needed if you ask me. Let’s not shift the burden of proof here, shall we? The way things work in Russia there is simply nothing stopping the “administrative resource” from interfering with the vote count.

            • Peter,
              I didn’t say “statistically significant”, did I? I used “statistically detectable” in the layman’s sense: detectable by looking at statistical data of some sort.
              Between human propensity for confirmation bias and our desire to derive narratives out of white noise, you can get a lot out of that definition. The ‘Bible code’ is one example. Fomenko’s history another. If someone is making accusations of a statistical nature, proper hypothesis testing, where all the assumptions and methods could be independently verified, is indispensable.
              It’s surely not [the “smoking gun” – Sergey], but none is needed if you ask me. Let’s not shift the burden of proof here, shall we?
              Sorry. Documents of this sort are made, among other things, to be used in courts, where the burden of proof is on the accusing side.
              Proofs of absence work only in mathematics. You are asking for a proof of absence of electoral fraud which will be impossible to deliver – be sure that with proper amount of sniffing, one could discover out-of-confidence-interval events in any electoral data.
              And finally, I repeat again – it’s clear that some regions of Russia, mostly ‘national’ and rural, are engaged in systematic rigging of electoral results. Does it influence the electoral results to the extent that an independent court would be forced to overturn them – I’m not convinced at all. Also note that Moscow is neither a national republic nor rural.

            • Peter,

              if you are unable to keep your dirty mouth shut in polite places, you shoudn’t show up in normal discussion forums; restrict yourself to LiveJournal instead. Getting some education in the topics you are discussing won’t hurt, either.

              That said, here’s my Prague graph.

              Data from Czech Statistics Office.

              • Peter, if you are unable to keep your dirty mouth shut in polite places…

                I kindly ask you to calm down and not get personal. Yes, I do think your previous comment was comically smug in tone and empty in substance — but no, it’s not a big deal, happens even to the best of us.

                Getting some education in the topics you are discussing won’t hurt, either.

                Couldn’t agree more. I keep saying the same thing to AK — unfortunately to no avail.

                here’s my Prague graph

                Thanks. I checked and got more or less the same (my highest point is 82, maybe I pasted something twice). Any ideas?

              • Sergey,

                if you’re still interested, I’ve redone your Prague graph using the “valid votes” numbers instead of “envelopes issued”. The result is a lot less suspect, but one or two of those round-number-peaks are still there.

            • I keep saying the same thing to AK — unfortunately to no avail.

              I made one minor mistake that had no major bearing on the rest of the post and corrected it as soon as you pointed it out (and congratulated you for spotting it). A minor mistake because, as I noted, my point was true for the long-term (if it weren’t, said bookies would quickly go out of business).

  1. This supports Daniel Treisman’s view that ER doesn’t need to falsify elections because they would win anyway. Yet despite your comparison with opinion polls, anecdotal evidence shows that they still continue to practice all sort of dirty tricks.

    I would be interested see how this jived if you broke this analysis down by comparing regional surveys with regional results. There I think you would get a better picture. I think that the falsification at the federal level is quite minimal, more regional, and doesn’t have much impact on total results. Sure I think some box stuffing and intimidation occurs for Presidential and Duma elections, but I don’t think they are widespread. The truth is that ER does well because of name recognition and Putin’s personal association with it. The KPRF doesn’t have a good brand, and the rest of the parties are less known/trusted. Russians elect parties not candidates.

    That said, I think the real electoral fraud occurs at the municipal level. This is much easier to manage. It is also where ER is most vulnerable. Not to mention local elections draw less international scrutiny. On electoral fraud on the municipal level, I recommend this article looking at local elections in Tambov from March:

    • Comparing surveys with results at the regional level will be an interesting exercise; now if anyone has the Levada or VCIOM breakdowns of voting intentions region by region… ?

      That regional elections are far dirtier than national ones is also something I’ve encountered and agree with (though the anecdotes also indicate that UR isn’t the only one to do it in regions where it is electorally dominant; though because it IS electorally dominant in so many areas, the effects of whatever falsifications it does are more pronounced).

  2. Yeah, I agree – at the national level the results broadly reflect public opinion.

    The problem is that the Russian Gov’t still allows sycophantic regional leaders like Kadyrov in Chechnya (and several others) to blatantly present returns which show 90%+ voting in favour of the Gov’t.

    Eliminating stupid practices like this would go a long way towards reducing criticism of Russian elections.

  3. georgesdelatour says:


    Someone once said the main task of a democracy is to enable people to get rid of their government without violence.

    Right now Russia’s governing party is popular. The economy is doing well. The opposition is incoherent and divided; there is no credible alternative government waiting in the wings. In such a situation, you can’t really tell how well the democratic system is working. It’s only when the electorate decide they want to change the government that you’ll find out if the system’s working.

    Regarding corruption, I can offer just one observation from the UK. Corruption tends to flourish wherever the election results become fixed. The most corrupt local authorities in the UK are the ones where the same party usually wins every time; the least corrupt are the ones where political control changes every election.

  4. lukitas says:

    The interesting part about accusations of vote rigging lies with it’s intended public. If the target is the western punter, then this is not about Russia, but about how we are more democratic than Russia. The intent is to bolster belief in our failing and flailing democracies.
    The surprise is the close correlation between polls and votes. I suspect a similar correlation exists in countries where we wouldnt’ expect so : China, Venezuela, Cuba, maybe even Libya ; it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that reasonable to large majorities approve of the current regime (or in the case of Libya, at least did approve until recently).
    This implies we are willing sheep to the slaughter, and we will happily entrust our future and our safety to ceasars and napoleons. Terrific.

    • I fully expect results in Venezuela to also closely correlate with opinion polls, since it is no less democratic than its neighbors (neocon propaganda to the contrary).

      The same cannot be said of China or Cuba, however. Well, maybe it can, but it would be largely meaningless since they are one-party systems in which the organization department of the Communist Party decides who the sole candidate for any position would be.

    • Patronizing tripe. Chavez got 52% of the vote and he ain’t no “communist tyrant” as branded by the Canadian Press agency. It is Sakashvilli’s 97% that is an outright fraud. Only Saddam got more in his “elections”.

      What do these fringe “liberal” (aka neo-con) parties have to offer? WTO membership on western terms? Why would the average Russian, who has seen his standard of living significantly increase since 2000, vote for parties peddling the same economics policies that were popular in the early 1990s during the era of shock therapy? It is no accident that Russians called the Yeltsin “democrats” as democrads and dermocrats. Khakamada actually went to Washington shortly before the election. This looked to the average voter, and quite appropriately, as a “report to the White House” visit. These same “liberals” openly sneer at the electorate, like you do, so don’t be surprised if they don’t get many votes.

      Russian’s aren’t your sheep. Cry me a river.

  5. Kadyrov continues to get reelected not so much because he is sycophantic – and, while he is certainly grateful to Putin for his position, I’m not sure “sycophantic” is quite the right description of their relationship – but because he gets the results his superiors desire. It serves nobody’s best interests for Chechnya to be in a state of open warfare or to be an Islamic emirate, and a truculent state of truce is as good as a prosperous peace from the federal viewpoint. Even those who despise Kadyrov, and they are legion, are forced to admit he has pacified the region for which he is responsible. Politics aren’t supposed to be a popularity contest, but Chechnya is likely one of the very few places on earth where it truly isn’t. Probably the vote is greatly inflated, but also probably Kadyrov would actually win, because few want his job and those who do probably couldn’t do it.

    Great post, Anatoly; I have argued much the same. A broad misapprehension that Russia is not a democracy serves also to keep Russia out of international institutions where it might rapidly gain influence, such as the WTO. Meanwhile, the USA is virtually synonymous with democracy, while drawing upon an ever-expanding bag of tricks to skew the vote. The exit-poll results in the 2004 presidential election are an excellent example, and although mainstream outlets such as the Washington Post offered slick-sounding explanations, the fact remains that the count disagreed broadly with the choice people actually reported they had made. Either some 6% of the electorate deliberately lied about who they had voted for, or the electronic voting machines were every bit the recipe for fraud their detractors claimed.

    And since when are candidates entitled to equal airtime and one-for-one opportunities to spread their message? I’m pretty sure you have to meet an electoral threshold before you are allowed to declare your candidacy – therefore, enough people to break that threshold already presumably know who you are. Nemtsov cried that he couldn’t get equal airtime when he lost the Sochi mayoral election, and he was a Deputy Prime Minister and born in Sochi – is it possible there was anyone in Sochi who had never heard of him or didn’t know he was a candidate? The USA is apparently quite happy with he who has the most money being he who gets the most advertising, and airtime is consistently offered on party lines. Those who shriek that United Russia controls most of the media outlets in Russia don’t appear to notice the Republicans control most of the media outlets in the USA.

    • Where in the Islamic world do they have an actual democracy? Indonesia doesn’t count. Turkey too a long time to get to its current state. Talking about Chechnya like it was some sort of version of a regular small EU state (e.g. Lithuania) misses the mark completely. It will take decades to stabilize the situation there. Modern Turkey was a military dictatorship and only has liberalized in the last 30 years in spite of formal structures. The military still plays a central role as a guarantor of “democracy” (i.e. preventing Islamists taking power even via ballot box; consider the case of Algeria).

      If Chechnya was to have a secular government it would look like the central Asian republics (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) and not Belgium.

  6. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Great post, Anatoly, as usual!

    I agree with Sean: Russian election are mostly rigged at the regional level. The reason seems to be clear: most of the regional governors are UR members, and UR poses quite strict “targets” with regards to the percentage of the vote UR must take in any particular region. You miss your target, and UR won’t nominate your candidacy to president for reappointment.

    Characteristically, during the latest round of regional elections, two regions showed the lowest percentage of vote for UR: in Tver and Kirov (lower than 40%). In both regions governors weren’t UR members (Zelenin and Belykh).


    • Eugene, I’m not sure how your argument about the 2011 regional elections proves anything.

      First, Zelenin’s Russian-language wiki says that he has been in UR since at least 2007 (“Члена генсовета партии «Единая Россия»”).

      Second, considering that UR’s average vote was was 46.2%, these two <40% results out of a total of 12 are what one would expect from the distribution anyway.

  7. Doug M. says:

    Elections track popular opinion polls; super. The obvious next question is “and what role does the state play in the shaping of public opinion?”.

    Doug M.

    • So if the government tells you lies for four years straight, then says, “vote for us” and you do and that government is re-elected, that country is not a democracy?

    • More patronizing tripe. Russians were following foreign events (via short wave radio) even in the 1970s and they preferred to believe VOA over their own government. Americans and a lot of other westerners typically could care less what happens abroad. As evidenced by the fact that a majority of Americans bought the lie that Saddam was responsible for 911, it is clear that they trust their media. Now you want people to believe that Russians “do as they are told” as if they don’t have any access to western news. This is a hysterically idiotic claim. They can watch western news propaganda on TV, hear it on the radio and get it on the web.

      This sort of brow beating is why Russians no longer buy into the western paradise BS.

      • If that was directed at me, I was speaking about the United States government, which lied faster than a horse can trot from 2000 to 2004, then asked to be re-elected to a second term on its record, and was.

        I don’t see how that can be interpreted any other way than the state shaping public opinion. But all the conservative-pretending-to-be-liberal organizations like Freedom House and Transparency International have no problem rating the USA a liberal democracy. If the state taking an active role in shaping public opinion disqualifies you from being a democracy, sorry about that; but turn in your playbook, autocratic non-democracy formerly known as America.

    • Doug, I don’t agree with kirill’s intemperate tone, but rhetoric aside I think he makes an essentially valid point.

      Yes, most of Russia’s TV stations are state-controlled (much like in Charles De Gaulle’s France, for instance; though Ren TV is independent and one can access satellite television with Euronews, BBC, Al-Jazeera, etc). And those Russians who are politically interested can read newspapers from a variety of ideological viewpoints from ultra-liberal Novaya Gazeta and liberal-right Vedomosti to far left Trud and left-patriotic AiF, or access an unrestricted Internet (where if they want to they can read translated articles from the Western press at sites like InoSMI). But despite the growth in Internet penetration – 42% of Russians used it at least once a week by March 2011, including a majority of the younger age groups – this has had practically zero effect on Putin’s / Medvedev’s / the vlast’s popularity.

      This leads me to believe that far from the Russian media forming public opinion, it largely works the other way round by reflecting and catering to public opinion (it’s surely the more logical explanation). I firmly believe that even if tomorrow the Kremlin were to privatize all broadcast media to 100% profit-minded individuals, few things will change (except for the fact that there’ll be even more ads and low-brow entertainment). Why? Because Putin et al. really are popular, and attacking them with Novaya Gazeta’s ferocity will cause ratings – and advertisers, revenues, etc. – to plummet. Kind of like Novaya Gazeta, in fact, which is about 10th by circulation ranking.

      This is also the reason why, say, in the US no major media organization challenged the Bush admin in the lead-up to the Iraq War, or why Ralph Nader or the Green Party or the Communists (i.e. America’s versions of Russian liberals) aren’t invited to televised debates. The hoi polloi don’t give a toss about them and thus neither do the media barons.

    • Doug,

      any political or social or business actor who is large enough or active enough or rich enough is trying to shape public opinion. You look at discussion on national identity in France, activities of Koch brothers (i.e., related to Tea Party), campaigns by Bono on foreign aid… everyone who thinks they have something at stake and could afford it are attempting to shape my opinion. It’s my job to tell some or all of them to take a hike and to make up my own mind.

      So, what was your objection, exactly, then?

      • Indeed, and apologies all round for more whataboutism – but what about the recent Supreme Court decision ruling out limits on corporate funding of political campaigns? (They might be regularly flouted by the powers that be in Russia, but they no longer even exist in the US). And bearing in mind that at least one of the SC judges has been found to take large favors from the very corporations that stand to benefit from it?

        Color me a dupe, but I don’t think Koch propaganda (e.g. climate change denial; pro-pollution; unrestrained deregulation, etc) is any better than state propaganda.

        • Colour me a neon-orange dupe you could see from space with the naked eye, but I’m pretty sure if the following set of circumstances took place….

          “Valdenskiy Odellnikov, Chief Executive Officer of Deebol Security Incorporated of Arkhangelsk Oblast – makers of electronic voting machines currently under consideration for use in the 2012 presidential elections – pledged last year in a fundraising letter to United Russia members that he is “committed to helping Arkhangelsk Oblast deliver its votes to President Putin next year”. Earlier this month, Mr. Odellnikov attended a strategy meeting for wealthy donors at Mr. Putin’s home. Immediately after that meeting, Mr. Odellnikov sent out invitations for a $1000.00-a-plate benefit for United Russia in the Arkhangelsk Oblast, to be held at his residence.

          Last month United Russia member Ghef Ghahobnikh asked the Arkhangelsk Oblast secretary to disqualify Mr. Odellnikov’s electronic voting machines from being used in the election, over concerns about the security of the machines.

          United Russia member Ghason Maukov said in a statement, “To think that Deebol Security is tainted just because they have a few people on the board who support Mr. Putin is just unfair.”

          Moving on to the future:

          ” In 2014 Moscow University and the National Centre for the Study of Elections completed a study of electronic voting machines similar to those used in the 2012 presidential elections, and could not recommend any for use in Arkhangelsk Oblast. Those manufactured by Deebol scored near the bottom, with particular weaknesses in Implementation, Data Management and Privacy.”

          …you would be able to hear the screaming from the western press at the North Pole. Never mind “shaping public opinion”; this provides the means to circumvent it whatever it may be.

  8. Internet use is an extremely weak metric for media freedom. Very broadly speaking, the first thing a state wants to control is television. It’s still the most important medium, and the one with the most influence on ordinary people. You don’t have to control every single station, but you want television overall to reflect state interests. Next up is radio stations; radio is pervasive, so you don’t want obnoxiously dissentient opinions getting too much air time. Third (at least in eastern Europe) is newspapers. You want the most important ones under state influence, though having a few shrill and obnoxious opposition papers is actually okay — it makes the mainstream, state-shaped stuff look reasonable.

    Less important: books. Books that are implicitly critical of the state can be ignored. Books that are explicitly critical can be either ignored or attacked. If the latter, indirect attacks are better — not censorship per se, but pressure on the publisher, whispering campaigns against the author, and the like.

    Still less important: print magazines, scholarly articles, professional journals. State control here can be minimal, with intervention only when something truly offensive or dangerous to state interests is published.

    Least important: web pages, websites, blogs and journals. You can monitor these, but hardly ever need do anything about them. They’re just not

    Note that none of this is new; Marshall MacLuhan sketched it out nearly 50 years ago. There was no internet then, but it fits perfectly into his schema.

    Doug M.

    • But I’ve yet to see proof that state-controlled TV is inherently more reflective of state interests than is privately-owned TV. That is because the latter still have to pander to the state to get sources and leaks; funding from advertisers (or corporate owners) who have an interest in maintaining good relations with government; etc. You cite MacLuhan, I’ll cite Chomsky and Herman on manufacturing consent.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve watched a lot of British TV, some Russian TV for the few months I was there, and a tiny bit of American TV. I didn’t notice any major differences. All served state interests. I wrote in more detail on the media scene in these three countries here.

      There is a free market for newspapers in Russia. If many people liked the type of coverage Novaya Gazeta (ironically, it is owned by a Gazprom subsidiary) provides, featuring a lot of poorly-researched and hysterical articles about the Putin regime, then more people would buy it and it would achieve higher circulation numbers. As it is, newspapers such as the centrist Kommersant are far more popular which try to provide an unbiased appraisal (with any spleen venting relegated to its comments section).

      I hope this isn’t stretching “whataboutism” too far, but look at the US; why is it that the NYT is the “paper of record”, while the World Socialist Web Site is… well, just a website? You could argue that it’s because the US regime doesn’t care about the Internet and finds it helpful to have a “shrill opposition” to make the standard NYT / WSJ / WaPo stuff more palatable. But most reasonable people would say that the reason WSWS isn’t pitching in the big leagues is because it is… well, shrill, frequently inaccurate, socialist (pisses off capitalist advertisers), anti-government (pisses off politicians and hence the chance to land scoops), etc, etc. Is it really that much of a stretch to imagine that the situation in Russia’s media scene is somewhat analogous?

      One final thing. Whereas I’d agree with you on the low importance of the Internet ten years back, five years back, I think it is less true today and will become much less true in the future. Three reasons:
      (1) The Internet has the potential to become a major source of broadcast media in its own right. You can view stream video programs through it.
      (2) Features interactive / social network elements that are a fundamental break from traditional media.
      (3) The most politically involved people have a much higher incidence of relying on the Internet for their political news and analysis. These people are also logically the most active in spreading their opinions to their more apathetic, TV-watching peers.

      So it will continue growing in importance. But that isn’t to say that it will produce the outcomes some people desire. Just as in real life, the “putztriots” and “kremlyad” groupings outnumber the “liberasts” online too.

  9. This leads me to believe that far from the Russian media forming public opinion, it largely works the other way round by reflecting and catering to public opinion (it’s surely the more logical explanation).

    That’s ironic coming from someone who wrote the other day that “while [Putin is] somewhat more popular than Medvedev, that can be “remedied” with one week of kompromat on TV (see Luzhkov).”

    As I keep telling you, Вы уж либо крестик снимите, либо трусы наденьте.

    • I don’t see any contradiction. I’m not denying the power of TV; *anybody* can be destroyed by a concerted barrage of kompromat on national TV (including in the West). See Assange, or Anthony Weiner, or whatever.

      In that post I was also making a few assumptions, namely: (1) That the kompromat on Putin is perceived as credible, and sticks to him; and (2) that the Putinists don’t come up with convincing counter-kompromat on Medvedev. Of course, both are possibilities. Note my reference to Luzhkov. The kompromat against him was both credible (because his entourage were obviously corrupt and so was he through Baturina) and he had no way of meaningfully striking back (which would not be the case in a kompromat campaign against either Putin or Medvedev).

      Note also that the whole scenario in that post was extremely speculative. As I think I said there, the chances of a bare knuckles fight developing between M and P are very close to zero, because is very much out of character for the power elites to fall out with each other so openly. My only point in discussing it was to gauge the theoretical degree of power held by Putin and Medvedev relative to each other.

  10. I’ll begin my comment by confessing that I find most of this statistical analysis stuff to be unintelligible, and calmly accept that this will invalidate for many people what I’m about to say. Nonetheless, Anatoly asked me for my thoughts, so here they are.

    The “inescapable conclusions” in this post seem to me to be very much escapable. The biggest revelation, that election results mirror public opinion, is as banal as it is misleading an argument.

    Why banal? Freedom of elections isn’t defined by the degree to which they reflect opinion poll trends. You’re talking apples and oranges here. Any sensible judgment of an election’s freedom should be carried out on the basis of on-the-ground observation, independent court investigations of alleged abuses, and whatever else it is those eggheads with clipboards do when they ‘monitor.’

    Why misleading? You go on to say that Russia’s mass media reflects and caters to public opinion, rather than shapes it. Your reasoning has something to do with “profit-minded individuals” not being any better, but I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. Russia’s TV media isn’t so bad just because it gives more airtime to Putin than anyone else: it regularly (though admittedly not always) ignores or downplays stories about corruption and scandals, not to mention violence, anarchy, and terrorism. Perhaps that’s due to their impeccable standards and distaste for gossip, but a willingness to destroy politicians after just a hint of indecent or illegal behavior is certainly not lacking in, say, the “profit-minded barons” of the United States. I’m not saying it’s perfect over here, but the threat of accountability (even for tabloid-style garbage, not necessarily concrete policy initiatives) provides a degree of democracy that’s better than nothing.

    A few other points: you pooh pooh the (Western) media for focusing on PARNAS and Navalny by citing their low support among the Russian public. But how much of the public even knows about their existence? Isn’t this where “media exposure” freedoms is so vital? Or is it wrong to criticize Russia about this sort of thing, as long as Ralph Nader isn’t allowed into the presidential debates?

    Is there any proof that United Russia received a “popularity boost” because of MBK’s arrest? I don’t intend to defend or attack the coolness/audacity of putting the guy behind bars, but Levada polling information that directly addresses public opinion about the 2003 arrest and 2004 trial is initially ambiguous and eventually negative. (We’ve talked about this before on AGT, I believe.)

    • Thank you for your comments, Kevin – there are many good points there, but ultimately I remain to be convinced of a fundamental difference between the TV media in Russia and the US. (I’m using the US not to pick on it but because it is familiar and many Americans themselves argue for fundamental differences).

      1. Re-“Ignores or downplays stories about corruption and scandals, not to mention violence, anarchy, and terrorism.” Yes it largely does (though far from always: see NTV’s favorable propping of Evgeny Starshov over UR heavyweight Markov on corruption and laziness in the Duma, even though many of his allegations are rudely put and without hard evidence), which is bad. Now how frequently does US television media cover topics such as the years-long detention of an Al-Jazeera journalist at Guantanamo, Predator drones blowing up Afghan/Pakistani civilians every other week, the breaking up of numerous ecological protests and FBI raids on anti-war activists, or the Obama administration taking out an assassination order against a US citizen? These types of things are America’s equivalent of Magnitsky or breakup of Moscow Pride or HR abuses in Chechnya. And they hardly ever play on TV. Not because the US media is repressed, of course, but because it’s unprofitable to do so.

      2. I agree with you that as regards the highest-ranking politicians, the mainstream Russian media is a more deferential than the US. Part of this probably has to do with Putin’s and Medvedev’s high opinion polls, but another is cultural (the US used to be similar in its attitude towards the President; e.g., note how FDR was always photographed in a way that made his disability non-apparent); to what extent its the Kremlin telling TV what to do is an uncertain question. I have come across various accounts that the Kremlin has a working group that coordinates the coverage of the country’s main broadcast media for the week, though these accounts have always been of undeclared provenance.

      3. I’m not denigrating the Western media for focusing PARNAS or Navalny – they are, after all, somewhat more interesting than the old faces (especially for their audiences) – what I’m criticizing them for is frequently making the impression, intentionally, that these new forces are probably / any day now / imminently / already going to threaten the Kremlin and/or topple the regime. What else can one get from a headline, to use one example, such as “Russians uniting against United Russia”? Mark Adomanis frequently used to mock on his blog those commentators who seized on any dip in ratings for Putin or UR to proclaim that the end is nigh.

      4. Re-“Or is it wrong to criticize Russia about this sort of thing, as long as Ralph Nader isn’t allowed into the presidential debates?” No of course it’s not, there’s a time and a place for that. The position I am willing to move forth is that as long as Nader or the Green Party are allowed into major US political debates, it has no room to politicize and condemn Russia’s sidelining of its liberal opposition.

      5. Re-MBK’s arrest. Just one hypothesis I moved out to explain why UR’s result in the 2003 election was almost 9% points higher than the last poll of voting intentions indicated it would be (in stark contrast to the other three elections in which the Kremlin’s party or candidate scored slightly below expectations). Other possibilities include: (1) anomalous result – they do happen; (2) some other factor that increased UR’s popularity by a lot just prior to the election – anyone remember if and/or when Putin endorsed them?; (3) it was significantly falsified at the national level, with votes stolen from the Communists – though the KPRF’s drop is most likely explained by the fast rise in Rodina’s popularity just prior to the elections.

      That said, I don’t think the MBK hypothesis is entirely without merit. When he was arrested in October 2003, VVP’s rating was 74%; it jumped to 82% in November and 84% in December. You may be right that many Russians might have been pretty cynical about this even from the beginning… but on the other hand, note that the constituency where support for Putin is traditionally lowest is among the Communists (even self-described liberals are more likely to say that they’d vote for him). Can we allow the possibility that many of them were encouraged by the arrest and hopeful that this marked the beginning of a larger scale re-nationalization and dispossession of the oligarchs – hence the jump in votes for United Russia? (At least Zyuganov said that he allowed for the possibility, which contributed to his decision not to run for the Presidency). Well, for now there are more questions than answers here. As I said, it’s one feasible reason out of many.

    • Living in Canada I can say you are being selective and misrepresenting the truth about the western media. There is simply no admission in the US and Canadian media that such a thing as corruption even exists in these countries. It is all just “pork” as if billions siphoned out of the public purse in the west are an example of virgin innocence compared to the horrible nature of Russian siphoning. As an example, the Canadian government (i.e. the Harper neo-cons) blew 1.3 billion dollars to host the G8/G20 meeting. The other major story is police brutality associated with this case, but that is OT. There is simply no way to account for this money regardless if 10,000 police were flown in from across Canada, put up in hotels and paid a lot of money per day. In fact, most of the money went into Tony Clement’s (one of Harper’s ministers) riding for beautification projects (i.e. pure corruption). The feeble Auditor General report on this expenditure was delayed until after the election. The media has not even tried to make a scandal out of this grotesque abuse of taxpayer money.

      The same thing happens on the municipal level, where various companies make off with billions thanks to corrupt politicians. An example is *grants* (not loans) given to condominium developers for “low cost” units but these units are never advertised by the city and the developer. Follow the money and there is a bottomless pit which does not reflect population growth and the CPI number.

      To say that the Russian media downplays corruption is an irrelevant subjective assertion. The question is how much it downplays corruption compared to the western media which you claim as some sort of role model. I see plenty of articles and TV stories about explicitly stated corruption in the Russian media. The Russian media is much more critical of Russia than the western media is of its own respective state. Given this huge gap between reality and your beliefs, perhaps you should actually read or watch some Russian media before smearing it with your cold war conditioned caricatures.

      • The question is how much it downplays corruption compared to the western media […]

        That’s not the question that interests me. I already regret ever mentioning coverage of corruption in the West in my original comment. Why? It doesn’t make any difference, unless you’re concerned with ranking who’s got the coolest, best mass media. I could care less. If American (or Canadian) news stations neglect stories about corruption, that’s bad. It’s bad when it happens in Russia, too. Those who wish to debate where it’s worse are entitled to it, but I’ll kindly excuse myself from the conversation, apologizing (to myself) for having encouraged it in the first place.

        Suffice it to say that corruption and state criminality is underreported in Russia by the national mass media. For some, this was a welcome change from the oligarch ‘black PR’ media battles of the 90s. For others, it’s led to a welcome cornucopia of idiotic diversion. (Surely, this development has its parallel in America *cough cough reality television cough*.)

        I agree that “actually watching” Russian television would be an excellent way to draw up a list of taboo political topics, black-listed public figures, and various kinds of vlast’ favoritism. People have already done it (I blogged on this subject loosely here:, and the more its done, the merrier a place the Interwebs will become.

  11. OK, guys, count me cynical. I just made a graph, similar to the one in Shen’s paper – histogram of voter participation in last national elections in the Czech Republic, only using Prague precincts.

    Guess what – by eyeballing the graph, I can reliably say that the elections were “rigged”. I’m using the same step (1%) as in Shen’s document. Did you ever hear about this outrage?

  12. I live in Russia, Novokuznetsk (Siberia). You want to know something about elections in Russia? I’ll tell you!
    Me, my friends, friends of my friends, friends of friends of my friends and their friends – no one voted for the pro-presidential political party “United Russia”. Why is this the party received the most votes? Very simple: election fraud, dirty political technologies, bribery and corruption. In the polling box to account for the vote dropped a stack of ballots, citizens who would not vote (of course in favor of “United Russia”), people give money to those voted “correctly” in government offices, factories, hospitals, people could be dismissed from work, if they do not vote for the “United Russia” … Such dishonest and disgraceful election none of the Russians were not seen. If you doubted my word, you can search for evidence on the Internet. Hundreds of video clips shot with Russian citizens at the polls, which indicate rigged elections, is already on youtube.
    I’m ashamed to admit that I am a Russian, because my great country is no longer so great, as someone else said. Russia is no longer heading for the abyss, it is already there.
    Meanwhile, the Russian army contracts to Moscow in order to prevent possible mass unrest.

  13. georgesdelatour says:

    The crucial question is not the scale of fraud nationally, nor whether United Russia is the preferred government of Russia; but whether there is a trail connecting Vladimir Putin to the fraud. If there is, and it’s exposed, he’ll have to resign.

    Remember that Richard Nixon was forced out of office over Watergate when there’s no doubt he was the people’s choice for President in the 1972 election. Watergate did not show that voters really wanted George McGovern for President. It showed that the President was doing something he shouldn’t.

    • That is, of course, a critical question. But I will be more flabbergasted than anyone else IF there is a trail to Putin. He has no motive whatsoever. And one would think that if he did it for shits and giggles he’d do most of it in rural and remote places as opposed to concentrating so much of it in Moscow right in front of all the liberal activists and foreign journalists.