Russian Monitors Report 3,600 Violations at Parliamentary Elections

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin casts a ballot at a polling station during a parliamentary election in Moscow, Russia, September 18, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/Reuters

Russia's parliamentary election was marred by over 3,600 violations the country's top independent monitor Golos reported after a decisive win for the government.

Ruling party United Russia won a record number of seats, in an expected victory by unexpected margins. Its new electoral chief hailed the vote as the cleanest in Russia's history and, despite monitors noting violations were fewer than in previous occasions, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) stressed the vote was still hampered by challenges to "fundamental freedoms and political rights" and "numerous procedural irregularities" during counting.

Golos head Grigory Melkonyants told news site Rus2Web that the group had "spotted the full spectrum of violations" on polling day.

Golos reported several incidents involving suspected mass transportation of voters to constituencies in coaches and announced that the group had received reports of "ballot stuffing" from 16 regions of Russia.

Some of the instances of ballot box stuffing by local commission officials were caught on camera, including a particularly obvious one in Rostov region's 1958 polling station, which was widely shared online.

The clip features two members at a school gym hall, turned into a polling station, wait for a moment when no voters are present. Once the queue of voters dissipates, the two stand in front of the ballot box, as a third colleague, carrying a stack of ballots goes behind them, pouring the papers into the box.

The regional electoral commission chief in Rostov assured journalists that the results from the polling station would not count, after the video was reported to officials. Another polling station in in the region (1749) also attracted attention online, as footage of commission officials, sneaking ahead of a queue of voters and pushing a stack of ballots at once into the box.

Rostov was far from an anomaly, as users online shared a handful of videos from polling stations across the country, showing what appears to be ballot box stuffing at opportune times. One blogger in the region of Dagestan posted cellphone footage of an elderly woman, dropping ballot after ballot in the box.

Another user responded to the clip online with footage from what appears to be the same polling station, in which a man is struggling to push a stack of ballots into the ballot box.

У этого избирательного участка сегодня по ходу звездный час 😡

— Али (@AliAhakve) September 18, 2016

One of Russia's largest cities, Nizhny Novgorod, was also the setting of a similar video, that spread online. In it, one elderly woman appears to stuff ballots in the ballot box several times, as a colleague of hers stands over her for cover.

Central Electoral Commission chair, Ella Pamfilova said before the elections that she would resign from the the post, which she was given only six months ago, if they did not go ahead fairly. However, she hailed the procedures on polling day as a relative success.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin announced that they considered the result as "a vote of confidence" from the Russian people.