Staunton, March 16 – For the last year, the Kremlin has sent a clear message to the heads of federal subjects that it expects them to get 70 percent of registered voters to the polls and have 70 percent of those who do take part cast their ballots for Vladimir Putin, the so-called “70/70” requirement.
But this week, just a few days before Sunday’s vote, leaks from officials across the Russian Federation said that the center had dropped that requirement, fearful that the demand for 70 percent participation would lead to the kind of massive falsifications that could trigger demonstrations and protests (ura.news/articles/1036274235).
And while these reports did not suggest that the Kremlin had other concerns, it seems extremely likely that various recent reports showing that support for Putin has softened if not slipped especially in major cities may have been a factor as well because regional officials would have felt compelled to falsify those returns as well if their futures depended upon them.
According to one regional official with whom the URA news agency spoke, the Kremlin is now far more concerned about the share of votes Putin receives than about the level of participation and “the results of the work conducted will depend not on percentages but on the number of votes for the main candidate.”
Ilya Grashenkov, the director of the Center for the Development of Regional Politics, says that “in certain regions, even a 65 percent participation rate will be difficult to achieve.” If governors think they have to reach 70, they almost certainly will falsify the result and that will cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the voting.
Another analyst, Gleb Kuznetsov of the Expert Institute for Social Research, a group known to be close to the Kremlin, says there is a recognition that “legitimacy is achieved only in honest elections. Falsified votes will not be useful for society, for citizens nor for those they choose.”
And a third, political analyst Andrey Kolyadin, says that it will not be difficult for the governors to achieve the new percentages especially because “there is every chance that the first person will receive even more votes than he did in the last election.”
Meanwhile, an anonymous source close to the Kremlin told URA that the Kremlin had adopted the 70-70 formula earlier to divert opposition figure Aleksey Navalny into calling for a boycott. Navalny “took the bait,” the source said; and instead of working together with other candidates like Grudinin, he pursued his quixotic quest.
Had Navalny done otherwise, the source continued, Navalny “really could have influenced the course of the entire campaign.” It would have enlivened the opposition by suggesting the possibility of a second round, although it was clear to everyone that Putin was going to win and win more easily than that.