Preliminary Thoughts On The Election Results

putin-cryingLatest results are getting in that Putin got 63.8%. That a second round would be avoided was never really in serious doubt for the past month, nonetheless the election would still be important from several other perspectives, such as the level of falsifications (in particular, in comparison with 2011), and the relative performance of Zhirinovsky, Mironov, and Prokhorov.

I’m afraid there was still substantial fraud, greater than the 2%-3% I predicted (relative to 5%-7% in the Duma elections). The FOM exit poll gave Putin 59.3% (80,000 respondents, 81 regions), the VCIOM exit poll gave him 58.3% (159,000 respondents, 63 regions). That is a 5% point discrepancy that is too big to explain by their margins of error. In particular, the results from large parts of the North Caucasus remain as hopelessly ridiculous as ever.

That said, there were improvements, especially in Moscow. Putin got 48.7% there. This is close to, if still higher, than the 45.1% recorded in Golos observer protocols. The Citizen Observer initiative says he got 47%. (Recall that United Russia, which always lags Putin by 10%-15%, got 46.6% in Moscow in 2011, whereas Putin got only 2% points higher; this is further, if indirect, evidence of mass falsifications in 2011).

The Golos observer protocols gave Putin 54.7% nationwide. The average of observer protocols from all election monitoring organization gave Putin 50.7%, with some giving him less than 50% (one example is Navalny’s RosVybory project, which gave him a mere 49.0%). Overall, I trust the exit polls more. They are more accurate than observer protocols for sampling reasons. Exit polls try to cover the whole country, and FOM/VCIOM largely succeed. Observers are more concentrated in the more central, accessible areas, where Putin is less popular than average. Furthermore, observers in this election took special care to focus more on stations where there was evidence of fraud in 2011. As such, the effects of “bad apple” stations figure more prominently in their figures.

I prefer exit polls, post-elections polls, and statistical evidence. Grainy videos on YouTube where it’s impossible to work out what is happening, photos of lines of buses or big groups of “carousels” going about stuffing for Putin, etc are next to worthless. Speaking of those carousels, note that Moscow is a city of about 12 million. 75% are eligible to vote, and there was 60% turnout. This means there were about 5 million voters on March 4, 2012. You need tens of thousands of carousel workers and hundreds of buses (50,000 people, 1,000 packed buses = 1% for Putin) just to make the slightest uptick in the figures in support of Putin who has an unchallenged lead anyway.

In the courts, its been shown that whereas witness testimony is the type of evidence that is most frequently believed in by jurors, it is also the least objectively reliable. Same for these anecdotes about carousels and coerced voting. I view all evidence on these lines with great skepticism and recommend readers do the same.

Prokhorov did far better, getting more than 7%, than I expected, in significant part thanks to Moscow where even beat Zyuganov with almost 20%. Far more tellingly, perhaps, he only got 6% in Norilsk, where he is well-known as the owner of the nickel combine and main employer. Perhaps too well-known.

I was disappointed to see Mironov flopping, not even eking out 4%. Also a bit surprised, as I though he did very well in the TV debates. I guess most Russians disagree.

Overall, Western coverage hasn’t been quite as hysterical as in 2011, though if past experience is any guide things can change quickly for the worse (best example: First day coverage of the Ossetian war was actually fairly objective, only later becoming a propaganda fest in support of Saakashvili’s aggression).

Other things of note:

  • Putin crying
  • FEMEN booby protest. PS. A documentary on them.
  • Ballot stuffing in progress in Daghestan. The results at that station were annulled, but the 91% turnout and 93% Putin vote in that region indicates this was far from a isolated case.
  • Komsomolskaya Pravda: Караул! Лови фальсификаторов! An account of how the liberals have portrayed several things as falsifications (with “video evidence”) but which in fact were nothing of the sort. E.g., supposed “ballot stuffer” in Vladivostok was testing the machines before the start of the voting as required by regulation.
  • Georgia TV blasts Russia for fraud. Because Saakashvili is such a great democratist.
  • In case anyone was wondering why the Guardian censors users who support Putin and criticize its journalists, Luke Harding has the answer: “Many thanks for your comments! For those wondering why some have been deleted here’s Miriam Elder’s piece on Kremlin internet trolls.”
  • Mark Galeotti tweets: “Disgraceful! None of polling stations I’ve yet visited feature wheelbarrows of fake ballots, etc. Can’t they put on a show for a guest?”
  • On Mark Chapman’s blog, kievite calculates that US funds Russian opposition movement to tune of $500 million a year.
  • Alex Mercouris notes that the web cams were a genial idea.
  • The Wall Street Journalist (let me remind you, a plagiarist institution) resorts to outright, mendacious LYING to support its anti-Putin agenda: “Supporters were bused into Moscow to boost Mr. Putin’s vote in the capital, where his support has been below 20% in polls.” This is completely, utterly wrong. VCIOM predicted Putin 43.7% there; FOM, 45.0%. The real result was 47.0%, within the margins of error of both polls. Say one thing for the WSJ, though, they don’t censor my opinion there (unlike The Guardian).
  • CNN: “”The point of an election is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia,” said Tonino Picula, the head of an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).” – Erm, that’s not the point of an election at all, Mr. Picula.
  • Eminently satisfying to see Russia Today give Luke Harding, Miriam Elder, and Shawn Walker well-deserved drubbings for their smearing, lying ways.
  • Also courtesy of Moscow Exile I found this old post by Vadim Nikitin about Luke Harding’s plagiarism, which apparently extended well beyond riffing off the eXile and Kevin O’Flynn.


  1. Moscow Exile says:

    What I can’t understand is who the hell is responsible for these falsifications? Such activities are of no benefit whatsoever to either United Russia or Putin: neither need falsification of returns in order to win a ballot. So who’s responsible? Some dumb party loyalists or Putin adulators that think that such actions are acts of loyalty, or is it “enemy action”? I should like to think it is the latter. I’m talking about falsifications in the Russian heartland, of course, and not of those that occur in some autonomous republics. Those people who return 90% plus for Putin and his party make me think of the phrase: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

    • The error margins on various polls assume Gaussian statistics. For a heterogeneous country like Russia this is clearly an approximation. AK makes the argument that Putin’s results are outside the error of the exit polls. To me this is not self-evident since the error is some number based on an assumption.

      As for the actual fraud, that is easy enough to arrange. How do you filter the poll station workers and organizers for honesty? You can’t. You could have the same people who scream bloody murder after the election being the ones that arrange the fraud in the first place. For some reason people think that partisan factions never stage false flag operations. I am not sure what planet they live on.

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Kirill,

        As you know I am a strong skeptic on fraud allegations but I still find the numbers coming out of the northern Caucasus incredible. Even if we allow that the overwhelming majority of people there voted and that they voted for Putin I still cannot believe that the figures they produce are realistic.

        I seem to remember by the way that in 1996 Chechnya produced a very similar result for Yeltsin, which was if anything even more incredible then than it is now.

        • I should have been more clear, I am not talking about the bizarre outliers like Chechnya. I am talking about 58% vs 64%.

          We have the same pattern as in December. Pre-election polls are consistent with the outcome, but exit polls are lower. The pre-election polls randomly sample the whole country. The exit polls have regional biases even if they count more people. That is, the exit-polls are not truly random samples.

    • By 2010 is 2 years ago. So what is the HIV rate in Russia. Is it 10% of drug abusers?

      Immigrants don’t go to Hicksville as there are no jobs and opportunities for them so seeing them concentrate in Moscow is normal. But do realise that Russians see etnic Russian immigrants as more Russian than native etnic minorities

      The French have riots, that is the way they do things. Have nothing to do with being Muslim or communist

  2. Kireev has a table on how the FOM exit poll differed from the official tally by region.

    Unlike in 2011, Moscow’s vote was now more or less fair. As the most egregious violations have now moved to the North Caucasus (self-explanatory), Volga (Tatarstan, Bashkortostan) and the South (Kalmykia) it would seem that – as in the 1990’s – vote rigging has once again come to be very concentrated in precisely the ethnic minority republics.

    A graph of turnout / Putin vote, from @showdown_2012, would seem to confirm it. All the major outliers are, with the sole exception of Kemerovo, in the various ethnic minority republics.

    • , incsilg wasn’t new, and bread wasn’t new, and even incsilg bread wasn’t new. There are things we won’t be able to discover until our population reaches levels that make it necessary to do the research. When we have more and more millionaires, we have more and more people who will pay for that research, sometimes to make money, and sometimes for the good of mankind (something you see more in America than in Socialist countries, in part, I think, because socialism teaches us to let the government be in charge and not worry about it). We need a concerted effort in this country to reeducate people, to show how wrong “population control” really is, how nefarious and insidious the damage really is, how far reaching the effects will be. I think we need to encourage people to have a dozen children per couple. The reasons basically go like this. Two people have twelve kids, sounds like an increase of ten, but it’s not. Two of them will take the place of a couple who didn’t have any kids. Two more will take the place of a couple who had one kid, or who had two kids, one of which died for whatever reasons. Two more will take the place of two gays who will not progenate. Total so far, eight, which only leaves an increase of four, to account for the early death rate in America from car accidents, health issues, and other things like suicide/war. Those four have a lot to bear, don’t they? And mind you, that’s a DOZEN kids for that ONE couple. Instead of welfare, which encourages mothers to have ONE child, with NO father, we should have government transfer payments of some kind (like the EIC, which gets you more tax back, but not tax credits, which are not always used completely, since they don’t get you a refund, per se) to each family for EACH kid. And that comes from someone who wishes to eliminate the IRS. But if it’s going to be here, we should use it to our advantage, not to steal more and more money from our citizens.

      • People who have a dozen children don’t believe the same things/see the world in the same way as people who have two children. Besides if you are not really wealth (which comes with its own kind of leechery) than having a dozen kids is a massive use of government money.

      • You’re going to need a fairly generous social benefits scheme to prop up your proposal to encourage people to have large families. In some countries (Japan, Italy, Spain), fertility rates are low and populations are projected to age rapidly and fall because governments don’t offer incentives such as paternity leave or much family support. In Japan especially, social welfare for aged people has been very slow to develop as women are still expected to care for elderly people as well as raise families and work. At the same time, wage and salary levels may be growing slowly and people may not be optimistic about their economic future.

        To get that social benefits scheme in place, you’ll either need a large taxpayer base (which means you need lots of young people working so you can tax them or extend the minimum retirement age to 70 years or even more) or make cuts in government spending in areas like defence, something most governments these days are loath to do. The large taxpayer base will have to include young women in their child-bearing years and that sets up a conundrum: to have large families, women have to start their child-bearing early (ages 18 to 35 are the most fertile years; after age 35, a woman’s fertility drops drastically) but that’s going to cut out a large chunk of the taxpayer base you need to support the social benefits scheme that will generate the transfer payments you speak of.

        • Japan has a problem that women are still expected to leave the workforce when they get pregnant.
          Italy and Spain have a problem with housing. To few 20-35 old live on their own which makes getting pregnant harder.

  3. “I was disappointed to see Mironov flopping, not even eking out 4%. Also a bit surprised, as I though he did very well in the TV debates. I guess most Russians disagree”

    You may have to look at it in context AK. Mironov did a lot better than in 2004 where he got like 0.8% of the vote. With 4% now, one could say he increased his voting share by about 400% 🙂

    Plus given as I said that he is Putin’s age (but has white hair) he would not be seen as one for the future. He can be a current alternative to Putin, but not a future one. Prokhorov benefits from the “freshness” factor it seems and it’s rather good that he managed to displace Zhirinovsky. Just a pity that Mironov couldn’t do that too. I would expect though that Fair Russia will run with a different candidate for 2018 and by then that candidate should be able to garner a much better vote share than Mironov.

    • I agree, Oksana Dmitrieva’s day to shine may come in 2012. I don’t know much about her, but her question to Prokhorov in the Mironov – Prokhorov debates was lucid and intelligent.

  4. Juha Savolainen says:

    I also looked the regional results and agree that the fraud seems to have been linked now to ethnic minority areas. Well, that is really not too surprising. For Chechnya et al. do not belong to the culture of elections, laws, open political processes at all. No more than such institutions and processes were part of the Soviet political fabric. Yet their presence in the larger Russian political landscape keeps alive justified doubt even in cases where doubts do not true.

    I also share Anatoly’s feelings about Mironov. Sure, his persona was not competitive in the eyes of Russians, but one can only hope that Fair Russia does not lose its momentum now, for that is the only party having any substantial support that could possibly grow into a credible contender for power. That could help considerably what I think is vitally important for Russia’s future: the independence of the judiciary from the executive. Without this independence – and I am talking about some metaphysical independence, but something that has been reached in many countries – all Russian elections can and will be disputed, no matter how well their results will reflect Russian opinions and sentiments.

  5. Juha Savolainen says:

    Sorry about the typo: …”and I am not talking about some metaphysical independence, but something that has been reached in many countries” was intended, of course.

  6. Alexander Mercouris says:

    The overriding reason for the impossibly high figures in Chechnya and the northern Caucasus (out of line even with the other ethnic republics) is surely the fraught security situation there and the concern this causes to the local authorities about their own position. If the vote in these places did not show the sort of lopsided turnout and voting figures that we are getting it would not be interpreted by the local people as a sign of democratisation. Rather it would be seen as a sign that the grip of the local authorities is loosening. Given that all of these republics face either an Islamic insurgency or the threat from Georgia of external aggression it is understandable (if not excusable) that they might think this was dangerous.

  7. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Mironov’s failure was the great lost opportunity of this election. The fault lies not with him but with the rest of the opposition, which refused to unite behind him even though he was the only candidate who might conceivably have brought together enough support to force Putin into a run off. Given the egotism of the opposition there was no chance of that. Besides I suspect that for the liberal opposition (and its western funders) he is too left wing.

    Precisely because the rest of the opposition refused to support him he fell into the classic position of a centrist middle of the road candidate, being squeezed from both ends with his vote dividing between Putin and Prokhorov.

    On the subject of Prokhorov, I wonder whether his vote has been flattered by the very poor turnout figures in Moscow where turnout was (according to RT) only 49%. On the assumption that Prokhorov’s supporters are amongst the more motivated that might have increased his share of the vote in that city. Any ideas anyone about this and about why turnout in Moscow was so low?

  8. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear Anatoly,

    Just to warn you that the two above comments by Hartmut and Josiele are copy pastes of comments I put up on the Ivanov Report.

    • Thanks for pointing that out.

      They looked weird and out of place, but intelligent, so I removed them from the spam filter. I guess Akismet was correct in this case though. 😉

      Back in the spam folder they go then.