When it comes to electoral fraud, not all Russian regions are created equal

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Russia has never held post-Soviet elections that meet accepted democratic standards. But that doesn’t mean the fraud was evenly distributed across the country.

In a blog post on September 17, Grigory Melkonyants, the co-chairman of the independent election observation organization Golos which was attacked by the government as an NGO supposedly “foreign agent”, presented a grouping of all regions of Russia – more Sevastopol in Ukraine and the region of Crimea which Moscow annexed in 2014 – according to an analysis of the level of fraud detected in the Duma elections of 2016, the presidential election of 2018 and the national plebiscite of 2020 on a set of hundreds of constitutional amendments.

The ranking was compiled by statistician Sergei Shpilkin, who uses statistical analysis to estimate the percentage of “excess votes” at each polling station. Its analysis of the 2016 election found that the ruling United Russia party was given about 30 more seats than it likely won in the party’s list vote due to fraud.

Shpilkin classified all regions of Russia into six groups ranging from “clean” to “a rich tradition of bogus voting protocols.” Nine regions made up the latter group, mostly from the North Caucasus, but also joined by Tuva, Kemerovo Oblast and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region. In the 2016 elections, these regions accounted for 11% of the vote.

Twelve regions were placed in Group 5, regions with “a rich tradition of forgery”, and represented 21.3% of the vote in 2016.

Eighteen regions made group 4, regions with “a high risk of tampering”. This group included St. Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast, Moscow Oblast and most areas of southwestern Russia. They represented 25.1% of the vote in 2016.

Group 3, regions with “some risk of tampering”, consisted of 16 regions, mostly in European Russia. The Crimean region of Ukraine annexed to the Black Sea formed this group. Group 3 regions represented 13.5% of the 2016 votes.

Twenty-one regions are in group 2, “relatively clean” regions. This group included Moscow, the annexed Ukrainian city of Sevastopol, and a mixture of European and Siberian regions. They contributed 18.9% of the vote in 2016.

Finally, nine regions were placed in group 1, the “clean” group. They included Karelia, Perm region, Khabarovsk region, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Irkutsk Oblast, Murmansk Oblast, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Tomsk Oblast and Oblast of Chelyabinsk. These regions accounted for 10.2% of the vote in 2016.

In total, in 2016, the 39 regions of the four groups most prone to electoral fraud accounted for around 70% of the vote in 2016.


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