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What tricks were played in the Russian election?

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What tricks were played in the Russian election?

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REUTERS/Hannah McKay
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Russia’s presidential election on Sunday saw Vladimir Putin sweep to victory to claim another six-year term in office.

In a victory speech in Red Square, the president said the result showed the “confidence and hope of our people.”

However, others claimed the vote was rigged, with Putin’s main opponent Alexei Navalny saying there had been “unprecedented violations”, and Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin describing it as the “filthiest” election in recent times.

But how are critics alleging Putin and his supporters meddled with the vote?

'Ballot box stuffing'

CCTV footage from a polling station in the Lyubertsy suburb of Moscow appeared to show election staff methodically stuffing a ballot box with papers handed to them by one of the poll workers.

Other videos from Ilskhan-Yurt in Chechnya, the Primorsky region of the Far East, and elsewhere also appeared to show people stuffing votes into ballot boxes.

Non-governmental election monitor Golos has said ballot stuffing is "the most popular violation".

‘Repeat’ voting

Ahead of Sunday’s election, Navalny said that people would be able to vote “20-30 times”.

To demonstrate the point, Navalny said he sent one of his staff members to register at three different election offices in Moscow.

Polling station monitors reported several alleged incidents of repeat voting on Sunday.

'Intimidation'

Critics have also claimed that tactics of intimidation were used against monitors to facilitate violations.

Navalny, who sent more than 33,000 people across the country to see how official turnout figures differ from those of monitors, said that in some regions up to 18% of his observers had been removed from polling stations.

David Sepashvili, who worked in a polling station in Russia's mountainous Dagestan region, told AFP news agency that a group of thugs physically stopped him from doing his job.

Sepashvili claimed around 50 men entered the polling station and assaulted the independent observer there before telling him to leave as well.

"They filled the entire station, blocked the ballot box in a line," Sepashvili told AFP.

Several similar reports emerged from other monitors.

'Hidden count'

A video from a polling station in Kemerovo region showed an electoral worker moving balloons in front of the security camera as ballots were being counted, raising suspicions of foul play.

'Bussed in'

Critics said voters were being compelled to show up at polling stations to ensure that Putin’s win was not tarnished by a low turnout.

Ivan Zhdanov, an aide to Navalny, said people were being bused to polling stations by their employers.

"We would call this the 'shuttle bus election'," he said. "Some organisations, some buses, are bringing massive amounts of people."

'Orders from employers'

Reuters reporters at polling stations across Russia spoke to several people who said they had been instructed by bosses or academic supervisors to vote.

Some took photos of themselves casting their ballots, which they said was needed as proof.

"At work we were forced to come and vote, with photos and all the rest of it,” said a 25-year-old man at a polling station in the Lipetsk region south of Moscow.

Two 18-year-old students at a polling station in Ust-Djeguta said they were forced to vote by their teacher.

'Gimmicks'

The government is also accused of attempting to boost turnout with a number of gimmicks around polling stations.

These included food markets offering products at discount prices, dance and sports competitions, and cancer screenings.

What did the OSCE observe?

In a statement, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said overall the election day was "conducted in an orderly manner despite shortcomings related to vote secrecy and transparency of counting."

The OSCE's Election Observation Mission praised the Central Election Commission for administering the vote "efficiently and openly" but warned that it took place "in an overly controlled legal and political environment marked by continued pressure on critical voices."

It also added that its observers "reported a few cases of serious irregularities such as ballot box stuffing in seven cases and group voting in 5 per cent of observations."

What has Putin said?

Putin's election campaign spokesman Andrei Kondrashov said reports of violations were "fake" and aimed at "discrediting the election."

The Central Election Commission said the results of five polling stations would be annulled due to violations.

However, it claimed there were fewer confirmed violations than in 2012.

The body’s chief Ella Pamfilova said those alleging the election was rigged were biased and peddling "Russophobia".