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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Russia’s rigged legislative election

The power to put in votes

On Sept. 19, the final few Russians casted their ballots in the election for the Russian State Duma, Russia’s national legislature. This began the government’s monumental task of convincing their people of the legitimacy of these elections. 

Decision 2021 in Russia was really not much of a decision at all. Many opposition leaders and parties weren’t even allowed to run in the first place, leaving Russian voters to choose only from state-approved candidates. 

These so-called “systemic opposition” parties tend to be opposition in name only. They have the privilege to criticize President Vladimir Putin’s government from outside a jail cell. This recent election still managed to be one of the most rigged Russian elections in recent history. 

A stark statistic that proves this reality comes from the Russian voting rights organization, Golos, which single-handedly received reports of around 5,000 possible voting violations. These violations ranged from ballot stuffing to employers forcing their employees to vote. 

Meanwhile the Kremlin, the official residence of the Russian president, which has, in the past, attempted to shut down Golos, has denied all allegations of voter fraud. 

Even more remarkable is the fact that Golos was able to document as much fraud as they did, considering the organization had nearly been shut down by the Russian government just a month ago when it was branded a “foreign agent.” 

Golos remains the only Russian election monitoring organization unaffiliated with the Russian government, making it no coincidence that it faced such a harsh crackdown.

This election was also the first time in over 25 years when election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were not allowed to monitor the election. President Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia, was thus able to do suspiciously well with its polling numbers managing to surge from 40 to 50 percent overnight. 

Elections in Moscow seemed to be worse. When opposition parties seemed poised to win, 1.8 million online votes were counted at the last minute. Defeated Communist party candidate Mikhail Lobanov remarked “I know that such a result is simply not possible.”

This was the first time online voting was allowed in certain regions of Russia. Many experts believe these votes were highly altered. It is especially shocking that in-person voters would be far more anti-Putin than their online counterparts when tech-savvy young Russians are the most anti-Putin generation by far. 

This Russian election is disappointing, but unsurprising due to Russia’s track record on election security. 

To me, the most horrific violation has been the willingness of U.S. corporations to conform to Putin’s wishes by aiding in the government crackdown of Smart Voting, an online database developed by Putin critic and political prisoner, Alexey Navalny and his supporters. 

Smart Voting involved a list of candidates who had the best chances of defeating those from Putin’s party in each constituency regardless of their political beliefs. Since the project’s goal of creating an informed voter base threatened Putin’s government, this Smart Voting information was quickly scrubbed from the Russian internet. 

This couldn’t have been done without the help of the U.S. companies who run the internet and online devices like Apple, Google and Telegram. All three quickly purged online documents, videos and apps containing Smart Voting information, contradicting their stated goals of promoting freedom of information and online privacy protection. 

This is another example of U.S. corporations advertising themselves as one thing and doing the exact opposite abroad.

Apple and Google bring shame to the very principles that allowed their businesses to exist in the first place. Both companies claim to be committed to upholding human rights, but falter on their commitments when given the opportunity to turn a profit. 

With many employees of both companies already lambasting the decision and reports that the Russian police came to Google’s Moscow office to enforce the censorship edict, Apple and Google may reconsider if they should even operate in Russia at all. 

I think that it would be in Apple and Google’s best interest to reevaluate their involvement with Russia since the only thing more fake than their commitment to human rights was the election in Russia. 

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