Archives for March 2012

List Of Estimates On Fraud In Russia’s 2012 Presidential Elections

This post is a follow-up to a similar one for the 2011 Duma elections. It contains an extensive list of blogger, pundit and “expert” opinions on the extent of fraud in the 2011 Duma elections. Interspersed among these opinions and analyses are results from federal opinion polls, election monitors, and other evidence.

In general, it seems we can identify three “theses” or “clubs.” The 0% Club holds the idea that falsifications were non-existent or minimal; it is advanced by Kremlin officials and supported by many opinion polls. Its polar opposite is the 15% Club, which is – unlike in the Duma elections – now only claimed by opposition forces and some liberal and  Western media outlets. The 5% Club tends to arguee that Putin got a solid majority with some 56%-60% of the vote; almost all evidence converges to this figure. Most of the systemic opposition and arguably most Russians belong to this club.

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Why Statistics Only Support 3%-6% Fraud

Remember Sergey Shpilkin? He is the mathematician, blogging as [info]podmoskovnik, who estimated 16% fraud for the Duma elections (also the one whom the WSJ plagiarized off). He got this figure by assuming that in a fair election, the share of the vote for each candidate at each level of turnout had to be a constant factor.

This is, of course, a flawed assumption, as I argued extensively in Measuring Churov’s Beard. First, that would imply that elections in countries such as Israel, Germany, and the UK – where the share of the vote for right-wing parties rises with turnout – are also falsified. Second, it is further refuted by Russian opinion polling evidence: Rural Russians are both more more likely to vote than urban ones, and more of them would vote for Putin.

This influence of electoral sub-groups partially explains United Russia’s “fat tail” to the right of a turnout / share of the vote graph (although NOT the spikes at 80%, 85%, 90%, and 100%, or the general “bump” in that region). As such, we can say with confidence that the level of falsifications was significantly lower than 16%, i.e. around the 6% or 7% indicated by FOM’s exit poll.

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The World’s Sleaziest Magazine On Putin’s Election Victory

Yes, this WAS the cover to one Economist issue.

It’s all so predictable. In its main piece on the elections, The Economist wrote:

And by some estimates vote-rigging added at least ten percentage points to Mr Putin’s tally. The main victim was Mikhail Prokhorov, a business tycoon and the only fresh face in the election. Officially he got 8%. His real vote was probably nearly twice that, says the League of Voters, a group set up by civil activists after a rigged parliamentary election in December.

Note that the “at least” (my emphasis) part is supposed to give the impression that Putin’s result may well have been less than the 50% needed to avoid a second round, thus making him illegitimate.

They totally glide over the inconvenient fact that the League of Voters observers were concentrated in Moscow, where the results are naturally lowest. Even Dmitry Oreshkin, the head of the project, is forced to admit this even if he does do a lot of weaseling about in the process: “Most likely, our sample isn’t entirely adequate.” As I showed in this post this is a detail that CARDINALLY changes the picture.

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Quiz: Did This Happen In Russia Or A Democratic Country?

Vile, vile election fraudsters...

Did you know that elections in Britain and the US are marred by mass fraud? At least that would be the inescapable  conclusion if they were to be subjected to the most popular methods to “prove” that Russian elections are rigged in favor of Putin and United Russia. Below I have a translated a delightful quiz by Mikhail Simkin, where you have to answer just one question: Did this happen in Russia or in a democratic country?

Some of the following weirdness happened in elections in Russia. They contradict the laws of mathematics and basic decency. They cannot be explained by anything other than mass falsifications. Some of the weirdness happened in democratic countries. They can be explained by natural causes. Can you identify which is which?

(1) The distribution of polling stations by the percentage of votes for the winning presidential candidate in their region.

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Prokhorov, President Of Londongrad

Once again, a picture that’s worth a thousand words, courtesy of Alex Kireev: A map of how Russians abroad voted in the 2012 elections (see below).

Quantitatively, they split into three main groupings, each accounting for about a third of the votes from abroad: (1) Residents of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Pridnestrovie; (2) Other republics of the former USSR, or the “Near Abroad”; (3) the “Far Abroad”, which is basically the rest of the world. Each of these have specific electoral patterns.

1) Here support for Putin is overwhelming: 91.1% in Abkhazia, 90.4% in South Ossetia, and 87.2% in Moldova. Though very high, practically North Caucasus-like, I do not consider these figures suspicious. All of these states – most of the Moldova voters are from Pridnestrovie – owe their de facto independence to the Russian Army, and to the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Russian military, security, and diplomatic officials stationed in these areas would also be largely pro-Putin.

2) In the former USSR, Putin too has dominant support among Russians (more so than in Russia itself): 92.6% in Tajikistan, 90.7% in Kyrgyzstan, 88.5% in Armenia, 80.9% in Uzbekistan, 76.1% in Ukraine, 77.5% in Kazakhstan, and 66.4% in Belarus. It is ironic that his lowest score would be in Belarus, ostensibly the post-Soviet country with which Russia is closest integrated: Could it be an indirect protest vote against Lukashenko, or is that Belorussian TV’s propaganda campaign in 2010 against Putin as a thief has taken root? The Baltics follow the same pattern: 89.1% in Latvia, 85.4% in Estonia, and 75.7% in Lithuania. It is perhaps indicative that the more Russians are oppressed in a Baltic country, the greater their support for Putin.

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Russia’s Mortality From Vices On The Decline

Sometimes a single picture is worth a thousand words. This is one.

Though Russia remains a highly dangerous country by developed country standards, it has improved immeasurably in the past decade. Fewer Russians today die from alcohol poisonings, homicides, suicides, and even – despite a near doubling of car ownership rates – transport accidents that they did in the 1990’s to early 2000’s. Indeed, most of these “non-natural deaths” indicators are back to the levels of the late 1980’s, coinciding with Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign.

The importance of this decline shouldn’t be understated. Though they only account for a small proportion of total deaths, they tend to happen at earlier ages and thus have a significant impact on the workforce and overall life expectancy. Furthermore, the fact that the pace of improvements actually speeded up during the crisis indicates that Russia is becoming a “normal country” in the sense that health improvement trends have decoupled from economic fluctuations.

Why Golos’ Own Figures Support Only 3%-6% Fraud

Since yesterday, the following image from an article by liberal journalist Evgenya Albats has been making the rounds on the Internet. It shows that whereas Putin’s official tally was 65%, independent observers put it close to or below the 50% marker that would necessitate a second round, such as Golos’ 51% and Citizen Observer’s 45%. Predictably, these figures were seized upon by the liberals to condemn the legitimacy of the elections. As Putin ended up getting 63.6%, while the average of all observers was 50.2%, one could conclude that the level of fraud was 13% or more.

However, as pointed out by Kireev, this is a gross misuse of statistics for political ends, because of the severe sampling problems: Golos observers were concentrated in Moscow, St.-Petersburg, and a few other large cities where Putin is less popular, while Citizen Observer is almost entirely confined to the capital. The website collates the results from all the big Russian observer projects, and from the regional data, we can see that about half the election protocols compiled to create these figures were from Moscow; almost another quarter were from Moscow oblast and St.-Petersburg.

Nonetheless, while looking through the regional data, I realized that if it were to be adjusted for its pro-Moscow (anti-Putin) sampling bias, we could get a fairly a good estimate for the level of fraud in this election; or at least, an upper limit for it. And so that’s what I proceeded to do.

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The Provincialization Of Russian Electoral Fraud

Analysis of the election data is now trickling in, so I feel I can now make some real preliminary estimates of the degree of fraud (eventually, I will compile a list of estimates as I did for the 2011 elections). My assessment is that in these elections it was on the order of 3%-4%, which is lower than my estimated range of the 5%-7% fraud in the Duma elections, but still far too high by developed country standards. The geographical distribution of fraud has changed significantly: Moscow actually appears to be very clean this time wrong (in stark contrast to 2011, and 2009). However, there were little to no changes for the better in the ethnic minority republics, which is where the great bulk of the falsifications are now concentrated.

The most reliable evidence, in my opinion, is the FOM exit poll which gave Putin a vote of 59.3% in contrast to the 63.6% official tally – a difference of slightly more than 4%. (VCIOM gave him 58.3%, but I consider it slightly less reliable: It polled 63 regions, to FOM’s 81, and the missing regions included places like Ossetia and Daghestan where support for Putin is higher than average – even if so is the level of falsifications). Below is a table of regional falsifications, courtesy of Kireev. As you can see, the highest discrepancies between official and exit poll results – and the only ones exceeds the margin of error – are now in Federal Districts with many national ethnic minority republics: North Caucasus (Daghestan, Chechnya, etc), the Urals (Tatarstan, Bashkortostan), and the South (Kalmykia, Adygea). Across Russia as a whole, the discrepancy was 4.3%, relative to 6.3% in 2011.

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Winners Of The Election Predictions Contest

András Tóth-Czifra, our heroic winner.

András Tóth-Czifra, our heroic winner.

Before the 2012 Russian Presidential elections, 23 particularly courageous (or foolhardy?) netizens and Russia watchers participated in a contest on this blog to predict its results for the chance of eternal glory and a free S/O T-Shirt.

The winner is the person with the least aggregate error, i.e. the sum of the absolute discrepancies between his or hers prediction and the official tally for each of the candidates, as well as the percentage of spoiled ballots. With 99%+ of the votes counted, it is now safe to announce the winners.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give it up for… András Tóth-Czifra!

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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).

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