A ballot box erected on a plastic table in a building courtyard: in St. Petersburg as elsewhere, improvised polling stations were set up to encourage the Russians to participate in the constitutional referendum wanted by Vladimir Poutine.
Despite its unusual presentation, the installation is an official voting place, alongside conventional offices and the Internet, for this poll which takes place from June 25 to July 1.
For the authorities, it is a matter of protecting voters in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s practical, people can vote by the way and it also minimizes the risk of coronavirus infection” since it is outdoors, justifies Ekaterina Vesselkova, member of the local electoral commission, who awaits voters in this district popular of the second city of Russia.
A small cardboard screen is supposed to guarantee the secrecy of the vote for the fifty people who come every day.
In the center of the former imperial capital, another of these improvised polling stations was set up in a small square. It has no screen, but voters can vote “behind the ballot box,” say officials.
“We had a screen, but the wind carried it all the time,” said Yury Chursov, another member of the electoral commission, while urging passers-by to come and vote.
The aim of the maneuver, according to its detractors, is not so much to protect from the risk of infection, but to seek out all the possible voters in order to have the legitimacy of a strong participation.
President Vladimir Putin has indeed insisted on the holding of this ballot to which nothing obliged him so that the people approve the reforms already validated by the legislative power at a run at the start of the year.
Benches, cars and buses
“It seems clear that this new type of voting is used to generate mobilization from the places of residence of voters,” said theAFP Vitali Averine, regional coordinator of the independent Golos movement, specializing in monitoring elections in Russia.
And these “astonishing” scenes are due to the fact that the authorities developed this process during “containment measures and under emergency conditions”, according to him.
The reform of the Constitution, the first since 1993, must above all give the president in office and power for 20 years to stand for two additional terms after the current one in 2024.
The reform also reinforced certain presidential prerogatives and enshrined in the fundamental law conservative principles such as “faith in God” and marriage as a heterosexual institution.
Since the start of voting on Thursday, many internet users have been laughing at these strange polling stations, photos and videos in support, with ballot boxes installed on public benches, in the trunk of a car, in the wilderness or in bus.
If he avoided campaigning, judging that the result of the referendum would be falsified anyway, the main opponent of the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny, got mad at the method.
“I refuse to accept that the fundamental law of my country can be adopted by + voting + in the trunks of cars, tents and on stumps of trees”, he still wrote on Twitter Monday.
But other improper methods of electoral mobilization are also used, according to the NGO Golos. It found some 1,300 violations, whether multiple votes or pressure from employers on their employees to go and vote.
Critic voices also denounced tricks to incite the Russians to go to vote, with for example a giant lottery with gifts for those who made the trip.
Finally, a poll out of the polling stations and published Monday by the Vtsiom institute, three days before the end of the vote, gives 76% of Russians approving the reform.
If the publication of this poll before the end of the vote does not represent a violation of the law in itself, such an initiative is tantamount to “influencing” the choice of voters, regrets Vitali Averine of the Golos movement.
06/30/2020 11:11:01 am – Saint Petersburg (AFP) – © 2020 AFP