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Foreign meddling in Russian elections proceeds along several tracks — political scientists

Professor Oleg Matveychev stressed that both the registration of candidates and parties and the vote-counting procedure were the targets of criticism

MOSCOW, September 17. /TASS/. Russia’s election campaign has evoked outspoken foreign meddling, which proceeds along several tracks, as follows from what political experts said at Thursday’s round-table discussion organized by the Expert Institute of Social Studies.

"This election campaign is taking place against a backdrop of active intervention by other countries, Western ones in the first place. It proceeds along several tracks. Firstly, we can see attempts at influencing the election returns. Another type of intervention (far greater funds are spent on it) is the discrediting of the elections’ legitimacy and the legitimacy of election procedures," said Professor Oleg Matveychev, of the Financial University under the Russian government.

He stressed that both the registration of candidates and parties and the vote-counting procedure were the targets of criticism. "We are well aware that Apple and Google manipulate with information. They may be showing or not showing certain things in the search bar. The social networks do the same: they may impose certain characters as friends or block and ban political scientists who express patriotic views," Matveychev said. He noted that fake news was another widely employed tool of foreign intervention.

Smart voting

"The list of candidates that was published (for those who might decide to resort to the smart voting mechanism - TASS), looks disappointing. I reckon that many have seen certain persons the critically-minded electorate would hardly vote for," said the chief of the Science Council of the Center for Current Policy, Alexey Chesnakov, adding that on this list he found "many candidates who would emerge the winners in single mandate constituencies even without the smart voting procedure."

"In this regard, I think we should expect that the organizers of this ‘smart voting’ will try to take the credit for the victory of certain candidates who have won without smart voting anyway," said Chesnakov.

He also speculated that the candidates named on the "smart voting" lists would find themselves "under serious pressure and there will be no getting away from this."

Chesnakov stressed that calls for casting ballots for certain candidates being heard from persons who do not participate in the election campaign might well be considered as illegal electioneering. The expert added there were strong suspicions over the likely foreign funding of the "smart voting" technique.

Distance electronic voting

Political scientist Alexander Asafov highlighted the attempts at discrediting distance electronic voting (DEV), which will be used in seven regions of Russia. "Another wave of discrediting attempts is targeted at distance electronic voting. Some argue that the DEV is not transparent, that the authorities control everything. Moreover, certain political forces breed superstitions among their electorate. They argue that some may be allegedly putting on record how the votes will be distributed in the process of distance voting. In the meantime, the technology itself does not allow for this. Such speculations are insane," Asafov said.

He recalled that more than 2.5 million had registered for participation in distance voting, which is a sure sign of popular trust towards this system.

Asafov warns that the political parties that have opposed distance voting "made a serious mistake", and now they run the risk of missing the votes of those who have opted for distance voting.

Political competition

The head of the social research laboratory at the Institute of Regional Problems, Pyotr Kiryan, has noted growing competition. A total of 14 parties are participating in the Duma elections, he stressed. "This is a record, if you forget about some very old elections campaigns," he said. "In the regional elections, greater competition is more than obvious: whereas in 2016, there were 275 lists from seven parties in the elections of 39 regional legislatures, this year there are twice as many," Kiryan said.

About the elections

The elections of the eighth State Duma are due on the single voting day, September 19, 2021. The process of casting ballots is extended over three days: September 17, 18, and 19. Alongside the State Duma elections, there will be direct elections of the heads of nine Russian regions (in another three regions the top executive officials will be elected by the local legislatures) and the elections of 39 regional parliaments.

Distance electronic voting will be used in the elections of different levels in seven regions of Russia: Moscow, Sevastopol, Murmansk, Kursk, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Rostov regions. The deadline for distance voting registration was 23:59 Moscow time, September 13. A confirmed account on the government services portal was required.