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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Russian Voters are for Sale . . . Cheap!

Other Russia reports:

Representatives of the United Russia political party continue to regularly give out gifts to voters across Russia, which is illegal according to the electoral code. Vedomosti reported on October 23rd on just a handful of instances:

On October 5th, in the town of Baksan (in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic), party officials joined the regional administration to give out 150 gift-bags of household food products. They were also handing out envelopes full of money. On the 15th, members of the local party branch stopped in to a boarding school for orphaned children in the village of Kremenchug-Konstantinovsk, joining players of the Spartak football club. They brought the school a TV as well as a DVD player, and gave out candies to the children.

State Duma deputy Pavel Semenov (who is number three on United Russia’s Parliamentary candidate list for the Chuvash Republic), sent sets of skis to 12 Chuvash schools. He also gave out bundles of toys to ten area kindergartens. Semenov’s assistant, Svetlana Gordeyeva, proclaimed that this was perfectly legal since the gifts were made before United Russia turned in its final candidate lists to the Central Electoral Commission.

On October 12th, St. Petersburg television showed people dressed in United Russia apparel participating in a handout of food to citizens, including 5 kilos (11lbs) of potatoes, 1 kilo of carrots, 1 kilo of beets, and a head of cabbage. Overall, more than 20,000 area residents received packages of food, which were donated by the local administration in order to help ordinary people deal with double-digit increases in food prices over the past months.

The Central Electoral Commission has pledged to look into the donations and determine whether they qualify as illegal measures used to swing voters. The law forbids political parties from giving out any material goods, other than items bearing symbols of the party, such as tee-shirts or key chains. The alleged incidents follow a trend of the United Russia using any means necessary to swing votes. These gifts are undoubtedly readily welcomed by citizens. The partisan nature of the incidents, however, makes the situation unsettling, particularly to opposition parties who are not funded by the Kremlin.

Question: If Vladimir Putin is so popular, and Russia is doing so well, why do they need to buy votes?

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