Russia doles out Volgas for votes

ARTYOM KOROTAYEV/AFP/Getty Dmitry Medvedev’s Sunday win in Russia came as no surprise, but it appears the Kremlin was concerned about one possibility: low voter turnout. Fifty percent turnout was needed to validate the election, according to Russian electoral law, and officials were determined to avoid an embarrassment for Vladimir Putin’s heir. Prior to the election, ...

596182_080803_medvedev2.jpg
596182_080803_medvedev2.jpg

ARTYOM KOROTAYEV/AFP/Getty

Dmitry Medvedev's Sunday win in Russia came as no surprise, but it appears the Kremlin was concerned about one possibility: low voter turnout. Fifty percent turnout was needed to validate the election, according to Russian electoral law, and officials were determined to avoid an embarrassment for Vladimir Putin's heir.

Prior to the election, Putin called on Russians to get out the vote, and the Kremlin predicted a turnout of at least 70 percent. But despite their public confidence, officials nonetheless resorted to non-traditional means in order to ensure desired numbers.

ARTYOM KOROTAYEV/AFP/Getty

Dmitry Medvedev’s Sunday win in Russia came as no surprise, but it appears the Kremlin was concerned about one possibility: low voter turnout. Fifty percent turnout was needed to validate the election, according to Russian electoral law, and officials were determined to avoid an embarrassment for Vladimir Putin’s heir.

Prior to the election, Putin called on Russians to get out the vote, and the Kremlin predicted a turnout of at least 70 percent. But despite their public confidence, officials nonetheless resorted to non-traditional means in order to ensure desired numbers.

AFP/Getty Images

In Moscow, voters were lured to polling places with promises of grocery store discounts, and in Nizhnevartovsk and Nizhni Novgorod (Russia’s third largest city) they were given lottery tickets offering a chance to win Volgas and brand new apartments. Elsewhere, election officials were simply instructed to guarantee high turnouts, even if that meant tapping into the local psychiatric ward.

And in Sochi, future host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, voters were offered double the fun: Vote for the next president and for the Olympic mascot. Amongst the choices –- a torch-bearing Father Christmas, a polar bear, a snow flake, and a skiing dolphin -– the dolphin came out on top. In striking resemblance to the presidential contest, however, the mascot race may be largely for show. Dima the baby mammoth is already the predicted winner of the 2011 decision.

Lucy Moore is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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