Fri, March 02, 2012
World > Europe > Russian presidential election 2012

Govt workers 'offered cash to vote Putin'

2012-03-02 06:01:25 GMT2012-03-02 14:01:25(Beijing Time)  SINA.com

A Sky News investigation has revealed claims that thousands of government workers are being promised payment to fraudulently cast multiple votes for Vladimir Putin in Russia's presidential election.

Russia is only two days away from deciding who will become the country's next president, with Mr Putin set to win in a vote that his critics say will be massively rigged.

"Vadim" asked Sky News to hide his identity because he fears the consequences of speaking out over what he claims is vote rigging on a mass scale.

He said that orders came from above to get 25 per cent of Moscow's 200,000 utility sector workers to falsely obtain five votes per person.

In return they would receive £200 each. The end result would be quarter of a million fraudulent votes for Vladimir Putin.

"Since every polling station in Moscow will have several observers, it has become clear to the authorities that old schemes like bussing people around won't work anymore," he said.

"This new scheme involves a bigger number of people than before, split into small teams of five."

He showed Sky News a list of names and numbers of those who are signed up to the fraudulent scheme. Each worker on it was told to register at five different polling stations using absentee forms, he said.

Legitimately they are designed for re-registering people who, for work reasons, cannot vote in their home polling station - of which, Vadim said, in his company there are none.

He said a climate of fear means people are generally accepting this order: "People are driven by general fear and worry for their jobs. They are put under pressure.

"Some, of course, are just happy to take the money but in my unit, of 30 people who signed up only two would have actually voted for Putin."

Opposition group Solidarity claims to have secretly filmed a woman attempting to buy absentee forms which they say have become hot property because they allow people to cast more than one vote.

Mr Putin has pre-empted such opposition claims of vote rigging, saying: "Our opponents are getting ready to use certain mechanisms that would prove that the election has been falsified. They will stuff the ballot boxes themselves, observe this and then report on it."

Outwardly, it has been a very low profile campaign for Mr Putin. Billboards in central Moscow do not even show his face.

But there is a broad sense among his critics that while things are muted on the surface, underneath there's a hidden campaign that has never been more aggressive.

Independent monitoring website Golos has already recorded hundreds of reports of corrupt vote schemes, similar to the one Vadim alleges, from across Russia. Some analysts argue that this election will be fraudulent on an unprecedented scale.

"Everybody says among the civic centres, pollsters, among the analysts that this election will be much more rigged than the previous one.

"This election means the destiny, the future for Putin so they will do everything - they will use all the gimmicks, all the tricks, all the pressure - all the administrative resource, bribery and corruption in order to get through the first round."

Twenty thousand volunteers have been drafted and trained by the opposition to curb what's widely seen as inevitable fraud. Scrutiny of this vote will be more intense than ever before.

(Agencies)

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