Perhaps that ad for Vladimir Putin's United Russia that turned a voting booth into a capsule sex hotel worked a little too well, as a record-setting 146% of the Russian electorate turned out for Sunday's parliamentary elections. (The figures pictured above are actually those of Rostovskaya Oblast, a region about 440 miles south of Moscow.)
But not everyone thinks the math adds up:
A YouTube user in east Moscow illustrated how the pens at booths in school #1114 were filled with invisible ink. In the Siberian city of Novokuznetsk, a user showed how ballot boxes had arrived at a polling site one-third filled with votes.
A Moscow user filmed an election official at polling station #2501 filling out ballots as he sat at his desk. Several users filmed buses, nicknamed "carousels", which appeared to be carrying the same people to various stations so they could vote over and over again.
"Today we have witnessed the dirtiest, foulest elections of the last 20 years," one opposition leader, said Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy premier. "We can't even call them elections – it's the theft of votes from the Russian people."
Despite certain, um, voter precautions taken by the ruling party, the victory was far from the landslide that Prime Minister Putin expected. The three minority parties (the Communist Party, the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and social-democratic party Just Russia) all made huge gains, splintering United Russia's two-thirds supermajority and requiring a "more complex configuration" in parliament, as President Dmitri Medvedev put it.
Even Chechnya proved a disappointment: Where in past elections the region — which has lost tens of thousands of citizens fighting against Putin's troops — voted 100% in favor of United Russia, this time the prime minister's party took a comparatively paltry 99.51%. This despite a sworn pledge from Chechnya's war criminal President (and Hilary Swank BFF) Ramzan Kadyrov that Putin would receive "more than 100%" of the votes! Poor Putin's mojo must really be slipping.
Always the sportsman, however, the prime minister said that "the will of the Russian people has rung out loud and clear across Russia," and that he would not sleep until "each and every voter who challenged my unyielding supremacy has their kneecaps shattered by my own, viselike fists." He then crushed a frying pan to illustrate. [NYT, The Guardian, Screeengrab via avmalgin.livejournal.com]