Putin or apathy: presidential election live blog

Twelve hours of live blogging the Russian presidential election. Analysis to follow.


Thank you all for your attention today. This live blog has now ended. Good night!


The official final turnout figure is still nowhere in sight. Without this, however, it is difficult to give a full analysis of what today’s vote means for the next years. If the turnout remains under 65%, Navalny can claim yet another small victory, especially if it is proven that falsifications significantly distorted turnout.

And one more thing to muse upon: Putin said that there will be a government reshuffle following the election. My guess is that it will not affect Dmitry Medvedev, for reasons I explain here, but I may be wrong.


While the final turnout figure is still unknown, Valentina Matvienko, the head of the Federation Council says that she still believes that the final figure will be higher than 65 percent, the turnout in 2012. However, Matvienko already offers a range of excuses for a not-so-great turnout, from the “opposition’s” call for a boycott to the bad weather in several Russian regions.


Putin greets his supporters on the Manezh square where his campaign organised a party with pop singers and other celebrities. “We will succeed! It is very important to keep this unity, my dear friends,” says Putin. At this point, with more than 40% of ballots counted, he’s winning 74.22 percent of the vote. Grudinin is second with 14.02%.


There it is: TASS quotes the head of VTsIOM Konstantin Abramov who says that the turnout, according to their exit-poll figures, was 63.7%. If this is confirmed, that’s almost like a win for Navalny (and apathy).


As votes are tallied, the big question is still the official and the actual turnout. It was 59.9% as of 19:45 Moscow time, a little more than an hour before polls closed in Kaliningrad. How much bigger will it get, since everyone on Russian TV is speaking about a stellar turnout? How much was it exactly? If the final figure is only a little above 60%, it means that Navalny has reached the maximum that he could aim for. That will be a message to both the Russian opposition and the Russian political elite.

You can follow the official figures – broken down by regions – here.


“We have received no collective complaints about mass violations [in the election],” says Tatiana Moskalkova, human rights commissioner. It is true that if I were a Russian citizen and observed mass violations, I probably wouldn’t go to Moskalkova, either.


Putin’s bastions: Belgorod, Tatarstan (!), Dagestan. The president got more than 95 percent of the vote in all three regions. Putin did almost as well in Ingushetia, Tuva and Kabardino-Balkaria. Tuva and Kabardino-Balkaria also registered a stellar turnout.

Meanwhile, Putin’s campaign reacted to a growing movement urging a boycott of this year’s FIFA World Cup, with his press secretary saying that the “anti-Russian policies” of the UK contributed to the high turnout figures. Yeah, right.


Before the final turnout figures are published, a couple of very important statements by Grigory Melkonyants, the deputy director of Golos, Russia’s most important independent election observation group. He says that coercion to vote has reached new levels before the election. There was sizeable intra-regional electoral migration, which exceeded the inter-regional migration 4 times. People often went to vote in organised groups. There were several dozens of ballot stuffing incidents, but other tools that had been used in the past – i.e. carousel voting – were less visible.


The press secretary of Putin’s campaign, Andrei Kondrashov says that the turnout figures were “an unexpected victory” for them. We don’t know the final official turnout figure yet.

It is difficult to analyse, without knowing how much of the results were falsified, what this means for the other candidates. Grudinin certainly expected to win more than 11 percent – more around the 15 percent mark, but the results may still solidify his de facto leadership of a changing Communist Party. It is definitely a major setback for Zhirinovsky whose party may fade into insignificance now that it is less and less needed to communicate chauvinistic ideas. Sobchak will probably claim that her 2.5% is somehow, a victory. Yavlinsky did this for a job in Ukraine, anyway.


VTsIOM exit poll:

Putin – 73.9%
Grudinin – 11.2%
Zhirinovsky – 6.7%
Sobchak – 2.5%

FOM exit poll:

Putin – 77%
Grudinin – 11.8%
Zhirinovsky – 5.9%
Sobchak – 1.8%

CEC figures with 21.33% precincts reporting:

Putin – 71.9%
Grudinin – 15.9%
Zhirinovsky – 6.9%
Sobchak – 1.3%


Polls close in Kaliningrad, signaling the end of the Russian presidential election. An hour ago, the official turnout was 60%. Turnout measured by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation was 55%.

As votes are being counted (and very possibly, falsified further), pro-Putin rallies are planned all over Russia.


Based on the calculations of Golos, in several republics of Russia the turnout is lower than six years ago: Chechnya, Tatarstan, Yakutia, Ingushetia and Dagestan all registered lower turnouts. This is one of the interesting takeaways from this election so far. Tatarstan has certainly clashed with the centre in the past year, but Chechnya is a riddle at this point.


According to Russian press reports, around 1,000 people are gathering on Moscow’s Manezh square. Are they preparing for a protest action once the polls close all over Russia in 20 minutes or will they take part in Putin’s victory rally?


Voting has ended in Moscow (20:00 Moscow time). Kaliningrad has one more hour to go. With only a little left, it seems that the turnout will be over 70%, which is good news for Putin. However, there were probably widespread violations over the course of the day, therefore the legitimacy of the election will surely be questioned by a part of voters. The question is, how big a part.


Trouble is brewing on Alexei Navalny’s live broadcast. Kseniya Sobchak who randomly appeared in the live show says that she invited Navalny to be her proxy on national TV. In return, Navalny claims that Sobchak admitted to him that she was given a lot of money to run for president. Navalny refuses to cooperate with Sobchak after the election.


At 19:00 Moscow time the country-wide turnout was 59.5%, according to the Central Electoral Committee. In Moscow, it was 53% (up from 49% in 2012) and in St. Petersburg, 55.4%. Polls in Russia’s Westernmost region, Kaliningrad close at 21:00 Moscow time, in 88 minutes.

Certain polling stations in North Ossetia produced a turnout of 100% in just a couple of hours. In the polling station nr. 364, for instance, turnout was zero at 10:00 and 100% two hours later. This, of course, is suspicious.

Meanwhile, Norway has confirmed that its government would not recognise the result of the presidential election – in Crimea.


The end of the polls is nigh. Kseniya Sobchak asked Alexei Navalny to allow her to join his live broadcast. She has an “important announcement” to make. One of the employees of Sobchak’s campaign cast his vote twice.


At 18:30 Moscow time, the official turnout is 57.74%. In the North Caucasus, turnout has picked up a little, but it remains below the extremes of 2012. It is perhaps safe to say that the official turnout will be around 71-72% when polls close. And with that, one part of the goal would be reached.


Jack Stubbs, Reuters’s correspondent in Russia tweets about vote counting in Kemerovo. Apparently, a committee member put a ballot cast for Sobchak on Putin’s pile.

Another interesting tweet: a voter in Omsk ate his ballot in protest.


Check Navalny’s website for another list of falsifications and incidents. He reports a big discrepancy between official and actual turnout data. In the Yamalo-Nenets AO, the CEC reports 70%, while Navalny reports 50%. According to Navalny, the turnout in Moscow is 39% and in St. Petersburg 40%. Falsification, apparently, is also committed with the voting machines.


The Telegram channel Nezygar has collected non-official “exit-polls” from different regions. There is no guarantee that these are accurate, but if yes, then as of 14:00 today, Grudinin (22%) was trailing Putin (38%) in Kaliningrad. In Crimea, however, Putin stood at 91.7% (with Zhirinovsky a very distant second at 3.2%)

Another channel, “Elections-2018” claims to know a country-wide “exit-poll” as of 16:00. In this, Putin only stands at 61.22%, but more than 22% have “refused to answer”. We’ll see. The official numbers might (and probably will) look very different.


The first to comment on the turnout figures at the “Election Night” program on Russian TV is political scientist Andrei Kolyagin who says that the turnout has so far been “unexpectedly high”. Oleg Matveychev says that the fact that turnout was high even in bigger cities shows that the boycott didn’t work.


The country-wide turnout at 17:00 Moscow time has reached 51.9%.  Videos of ballot stuffing still continue pouring in. A very high turnout might now not look legitimate. Falsifications may defeat the purpose.


On Ukraine: Ukrainian journalist Vitaly Portnikov has apparently advised his Russian colleagues to turn to the FSB if they are looking for Russian citizens who are trying to vote in Ukraine, but cannot. “And those who will break into the embassy, and those who are entrusted with carrying out provocations on the Maidan, and also those who are running around with grenades.”


On a very different boycott, which might work: FIFA is panicking over growing calls for a World Cup boycott due to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. Dealing a blow to both FIFA and Putin at the same time would be a real and much needed tour de force for honest Western governments. Allez!


The masters of creative argumentation, the Yabloko party have just called on Alexei Navalny to change his mind on the boycott of the election, since “it clearly didn’t work”. Navalny was the only candidate supporting a boycott.


Alexei Navalny says that his campaign will only decide whether to hold a protest after the end of the vote once falsifications have been tallied.


We also have a new turnout figure in Moscow: 40% at 15:00 officially. In 2012, at the same hour, turnout was 34.15%.

As for the rest of the country, St. Petersburg has the lowest turnout at 15:00 local time – 38.99% – and Chuvashia the highest – 71.76%. Chechnya is also among the leaders. Phew. Kadyrov can relax.


As polling stations close in Siberia, reports about falsifications start pouring in from the Western regions. For instance, Rostov, where, following Navalny’s reports, the Electoral Commission sealed an urn and in Dagestan where Sobchak’s observers have seen numerous irregularities.


As of 16:00 Moscow time, polling stations have closed in 12 of 83 (+2) regions in the Far East. The atmosphere in most campaign headquarters is reportedly calm and relaxed. Then again, why would they be excited?

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that several voters admitted having been ordered to vote by their supervisors or teachers. No surprises there, either. This had been a story even before the election started.


With all the propaganda and the ballot stuffing one tends to forget, but weather can also be a decisive factor when it comes to turnout. Gazeta.ru reports that in Stavropol, where temperatures have reached 21 degrees Celsius today, people are turning out to vote in large numbers. Turnout figures have already reached 50 percent. It certainly helps that in most regions, local authorities and “volunteers” have turned the vote into  festivals. Why would you choose between an outing with your family and voting if you can do both at the same time?


I can confirm that in Berlin – where I am blogging from – there is a long queue in front of the Russian embassy. People are very eager to vote.


Chechnya is really strange today. According to local observers, in several polling stations, even in Grozny, turnout has stayed below the national average as of 14:00 Moscow time.


The Moscow Region Electoral Commission confirmed that ballot stuffing took place in Lyubertsi, near Moscow. It annulled the ballots in one of the urns. This decision followed the publication of a video of the criminal act.

For other instances of falsifications and incidents, follow Golos’s page.


According to the newest official figures, turnout at 12:00 Moscow time is 34.72% country-wide. This is twice as high as the (official) turnout at 10:00 and higher than six years ago at 13:00 (30.1%). Nikolay Bulaev, the deputy head of the Central Electoral Committee says that the final turnout will be “around the figure of 2012 or a little higher”. In 2012, the final turnout was 65.34%. Putin’s aspiration is 70%.

For ballot-stuffing videos, visit Novaya Gazeta’s live blog. For hilarious videos from remote polling stations, follow Gazeta.ru.

Voting has ended in several Far Eastern regions where turnout has, on average, been higher than six years ago. The decisive regions will be the European regions, however.

Chechnya continues to be a riddle. In 2012, turnout was 52.78% at 12:00. Today, it was only 40.9%. This is a very significant drop, and frankly, I cannot explain it. Perhaps people are distracted by folk dancers. We’ll listen and learn.


Several news outlets are reporting that in Kiev, Russians are prevented from voting. The Ukrainian government announced two days ago that it would not allow the election to take place on Ukrainian soil, since the vote takes place in the occupied Crimea. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls this “meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs”. The irony.


Breaking news: Kseniya Sobchak has voted. As she cast her vote, she held a speech urging voters to turn out and defended her self-assigned role as the “against all” candidate. “We have shown that politics can be different,” she says, while urging voters to turn out and participate in an election that is the apex of the old ways that Sobchak claims to be against.

Now all presidential candidates have voted. Fun fact: Vladimir Putin and Sergei Baburin both voted in the building of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


Update from the Central Electoral Committee’s automatised system, as of 12:00 local time: the highest turnout was recorded in the Republic of Tuva and Chukotka (47%). Russia’s Western regions – where most Russians live – have recorded significantly lower turnout figures by this time, but it still appears to be more than 5 points above the 2012 figures. If you believe the official figures, that is. And if you do, it’s hard to keep up. The official turnout in Moscow, for instance, was 17.06% a couple of minutes ago. Now it’s 18.14%.


Meanwhile, social media is flooded with videos recorded by cameras showing ballot stuffing at polling stations. The Central Electoral Committee says that it’s on it. Turnout is much more difficult to falsify than result, which is why the role of independent observers will be essential today. As we know from the campaign offices of Pavel Grudinin and Kseniya Sobchak, however, most of them are not allowed near polling stations.

At a polling station in Arkhangelsk, voters get a pirog. I’m not sure if we can call this vote buying.


In Moscow, at 12:00, turnout was 17.06%. Slightly higher than at 10:00, according to the official data. According to Alexei Venediktov’s independent observers, however, it was only 14.32%. This is about 2 points higher than in 2012.


Interesting turnout figures in some of the other districts too: in North Ossetia, turnout suspiciously hovered around the 20% mark at 10:00, in almost every part of the republic.

In the Kaliningrad exclave, led by Anton Alikhanov, one of Putin’s favourite “young technocrat” governors, turnout was only 8%.

In other news, ridiculously looking people have taken to the polls: the winter swimming club “Polar Bear”, knights, a man in a bear costume… and Gérard Depardieu.


Mikhail Vinogradov compares turnout figures in certain Far-Eastern regions at 18:00 in 2012 and in 2018. Only three regions saw significantly higher turnout while in Yakutia, the Primorsky Krai and the Zabaikalsky Krai turnout has fallen. Possibly bad news for the governors of these territories.


Alexei Navalny’s observers have reported that turnout at 12:00 Moscow time was 31% country-wide. Six years ago, the official turnout at 13:00 was 30.1%.

We also know that all presidential candidates have now voted, except for Kseniya Sobchak.


Turnout at the International Space Station is 100%.


There are three different turnout figures circulating in the news: Ella Pamfilova, the chairwoman of the Central Electoral Committee said 16,55% at 10:00 Moscow time. The Committee’s Telegram channel said 16,91% while the automatised system of the committee said 9,86%. According to the Committee, Pamfilova uses “more operative data”, whatever that means. Meanwhile, reports of attacks on observers in different precincts keep arriving.


It is quite extraordinary to compare turnout figures in Moscow and Chechnya. Six years ago, Moscow’s turnout was 58.1%, one of the lowest. Chechnya’s turnout was 99.61%, one of the highest. Yet today, as of 10:00 local time, turnout is roughly equal: a little above 16% in Moscow and a little above 17% in Chechnya. Falsification in Moscow? Ramzan Kadyrov slacking? Did Sobchak manage to mobilise Muscovites?


In 2012, turnout was a little over 65%, so reaching the non-official target of 70% should not be too difficult. However, turnout has been falling steadily in the past two decades and there is also Navalny’s call for boycott. Putin’s presidential campaign was almost entirely about ensuring that turnout is high: there were reports of threats in schools and companies as well as a competition to win iPads with the best polling booth selfies. And of course, the infamous video showing the ostensible consequences of a negligence of your civic duty: conscription until the age of 60, forced “gay homestays” and limited toilet time.

Turnout at 9:13 CET as reported by Vedomosti is 16.55% country-wide, much higher than in 2012 (6.53%). Certain villages are reporting a 100% turnout already. In Kamchatka, Chukotka and Adygeia, turnout at 18:00 local time was above 60%, in Chukotka’s case, above 70%.

9:15 CET

Good morning everyone in Europe. Something that the country’s leaders obsessively insist on calling a presidential election takes place in Russia today. Polls have already opened in the Far East. Vladimir Putin is running against some of his avatars and some insignificant politicians, some of whom would explicitly say that they are not going/trying to win and running only to influence Putin in his next term. The fact that this is a presidential, not a legislative election tells you how lopsided Russia’s constitutional system has become.

Putin’s real opponent is Alexei Navalny and his calls to boycott the vote. Putin needs a strong turnout figure to show that the non-systemic opposition – which refuses to play along and pretend that these are real elections – has a limited appeal. This would possibly allow Putin to maintain political stability in what many expect to be his last presidential terms

(Timestamps are CET)

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