Vladimir Putin’s new dirty trick to win elections has candidates battling their doubles

ST. PETERSBURG — As Russia heads to the polls in what is expected to be the most corrupt parliamentary elections since Vladimir Putin came to power, one of the opposition candidates was on the streets of St. Petersburg to prove to the people that exist.

“Look, here he is, the real Vishnevsky, not a fake! A local woman yelled. She was one of a small group of people at the Vladimirskaya metro station in St. Petersburg where a smiling, bearded man was courting.

Boris Vishnevsky is a professor and liberal candidate who hopes to become a lawmaker. Against him, rival candidates Boris Vishnevsky and Boris Vishnevsky.

This is the bitterly comical reality of democracy in modern Russia.

Two of the Vishnevsky’s had changed their names and grown beards in an attempt to confuse the electorate and make it even more difficult for this well-known opponent of President Putin to win his seat for the only liberal party registered in Russia. , Yabloko. The Election Commission No. 30 of the central region of St. Petersburg authorized the registration of impostors on the official ballot.

Photos of the real Vishnevsky standing alongside the banners of his lookalikes – who also share his bald head and similar facial features – have become a symbol of Russia’s dirty election campaign in 2021.

Even open supporters of the Putin regime think it goes too far. “Voting begins today, but no one punished the electoral commission for copies of Vishnevsky,” said local leader of the pro-Kremlin Russia fair Marina Shishkina. “This is just one example of forgery.”

Shishkina told the Daily Beast that she has seen Putin’s political system inside and out over the past decade, with all kinds of electoral tricks like video cameras being mysteriously going off in offices. to vote. “You will hear about a sudden power cut,” she said. “It’s classic.”

Here in Russia’s northern capital, The Daily Beast interviewed local voters, as well as pro-Kremlin politicians, who were equally ill at the falsification of the legislative and local elections held in Russia this week.

The ruling United Russia party has lost public support in recent years: its popularity has fallen to 26% since 2015, when it had 55% of public support. State corruption and lies were the strongest signs of the Putin system, rotting from within; but many of the brains behind the destructive process go unpunished.

“It is not an election, it is a circus, intended to deceive idiots; but St. Petersburg is not a city of idiots.“

Vishnevsky himself has suffered many dirty tricks since becoming a politician just after the fall of the USSR in 1990. This year’s election campaign has been full of absurd situations, he said. “First, they almost banned me from running when they didn’t like the way I stapled a sheet of paper in the entry package. Then I found out that two other candidates were running against me under my own name, ”he told the Daily Beast. “But when my team and I saw their portraits, we just laughed, they looked like me! “

Vishnevsky, who was born in St. Petersburg, saw the city at its most dangerous, in the 1990s, when Putin was a local politician and so-called “bratki” thugs were killing each other in the streets. Many politicians were assassinated during Russia’s first decade after Perestroika, but Vishnevsky is convinced that the electoral process has never been as dirty as it is today.

“Now it’s a lot dirtier! ” he said. “Moscow is bringing Russia back to a bad version of the USSR with a ruling party, a state ideology and no pluralism allowed. The ideal situation for the Kremlin would be to control everything and lock its critics into the Gulag.

Vishnevsky supporter Anna Reva, tour guide and interpreter, said she was shocked at the scale of the current political scandals. “If Vishnevsky wins despite these forgeries, he would be one of the very few honest deputies in the Legislative Assembly in St. Petersburg,” she said. “It’s not an election, it’s a circus, intended to deceive idiots; but St. Petersburg is not a city of idiots.

The northern capital of the country, founded by Peter the Great over 300 years ago, has been left behind. “Look, the facade of almost every building is collapsing, while the city places ugly shopping malls in the heart of the old town,” she said, pointing to the Vladimirsky Passage shopping center, a mass of glass and of concrete bonded between graceful historic architecture. “But the worst problem is the poverty, the lack of dignity and respect that the local people see from our government.”

United Russia’s own candidates have also distanced themselves from the dirty tricks. “All our candidates are against such falsifications,” Nikita Shirokov, United Russia spokesperson in St. Petersburg, told the Daily Beast.

Russia’s Central Election Commission chairwoman Ella Pamfilova also said that Vishnevsky’s body doubles should quit the election campaign. It is the apotheosis of dirty technologies in which St. Petersburg is inundated.

One of the lookalikes, Victor Bykov, previously worked with the president of the Legislative Council of St. Petersburg, Sergei Soloviev. The Daily Beast asked him why no one was punished for the blatant election interference, but the candidate did not respond.

As they waved through these bogus candidates, Russia’s Central Election Commission refused to register dozens of opposition candidates who support jailed politician Alexei Navalny. Several prominent politicians, including former Duma deputies Gennady and Dmitry Gudkov, have had to leave the country for fear of arrest.

“The Kremlin turns the grindstone and we are crushed.“

For the first time since the Putin era, the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe decided not to observe the elections in Russia, after Moscow had limited the number of OSCE delegations to one small fraction of observers required. “It just does not allow us to carry out our work in an efficient and thorough manner,” said OSCE President Margarita Cederfelt.

One of the youngest candidates for a State Duma seat, Valery Kostenok, 22, a member of the Yabloko Liberal Party, admitted they faced an uphill battle. “Russia is a military country, but even in the military, only 80% of the soldiers consider the vote to be the fulfillment of an order. liberal reforms, ”he said.

He continues to fight but he knows the change is not about to come. “There is a war against the opposition,” he said. “The Kremlin is turning the grindstone and we are crushed.”


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