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Voting in Chechnya: A “special tradition”

VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images Authorities in Chechnya—which until recently was in a state of armed rebellion against Russian occupation—is reporting a voter turnout of 99.5 percent(!) in Sunday’s Russian parliamentary elections. A full 99.36 percent of the vote went to Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. Chechnya wasn’t alone. The rest of the Caucasian republics also reporting ...

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VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities in Chechnya—which until recently was in a state of armed rebellion against Russian occupation—is reporting a voter turnout of 99.5 percent(!) in Sunday's Russian parliamentary elections. A full 99.36 percent of the vote went to Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

Chechnya wasn't alone. The rest of the Caucasian republics also reporting turnouts in the 90s. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attributed the ludicrous turnout to "the great respect of the people for President Putin" and to the region's "special traditions" of political participation that "we have to respect." Local human rights activists weren't so sure, as the Moscow Times reported:

VIKTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities in Chechnya—which until recently was in a state of armed rebellion against Russian occupation—is reporting a voter turnout of 99.5 percent(!) in Sunday’s Russian parliamentary elections. A full 99.36 percent of the vote went to Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

Chechnya wasn’t alone. The rest of the Caucasian republics also reporting turnouts in the 90s. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attributed the ludicrous turnout to “the great respect of the people for President Putin” and to the region’s “special traditions” of political participation that “we have to respect.” Local human rights activists weren’t so sure, as the Moscow Times reported:

Oleg Orlov, head of the Memorial human rights organization, who was in Chechnya and Ingushetia for a week through Friday, said the turnout results were credible. But he argued that the reasons were rooted more in unfairness than tradition. […] 

Orlov said doctors, teachers and other state-paid workers had faced pressure to vote. Also, he said, there was fierce competition among rural communities. “No village can afford to trail in the statistics,” he said.

An Ingushetian election official dismissed reports of pressure to vote, saying, “We mountaineers retain our free will.”

One free-willed mountaineer, Farid Babayev, leader of the liberal Yabloko party in the Caucasian republic of Dagestan, was murdered in front of his home by unidentified gunmen last week after criticizing the local government for human rights abuses and electoral manipulation. He must have been a member of the minority: 92 percent of Dagestanians apparently voted on Sunday, with 89 percent supporting United Russia.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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