Lesser of all evils

Russians opposing Putin mull over protest vote tactics in an election with a predetermined outcome

Lesser of all evils

Photo: Igor Rusak / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

With Russia’s presidential election running from Friday to Sunday, many Russians remain undecided how to use their vote in a contest where the only options are Vladimir Putin and three other candidates whose perfunctory presence on the ballot serves only to boost the Kremlin’s shameless claim that Russians enjoy any choice whatsoever in who rules over them.

Expert opinions vary on how those who plan to vote tackle the dilemma. Some suggest voting for the best of a bad bunch (though who that may be is admittedly not obvious) while others favour spoiling ballots to avoid voting for anyone at all.

One thing on which nearly all independent commentators and politicians are agreed is participating in the Noon Against Putin campaign, originally proposed by former St. Petersburg deputy Maxim Reznik, and later endorsed by the murdered opposition leader Alexey Navalny just days before his death last month. The plan involves anyone opposed to the war and the Putin regime heading to polling stations en masse at midday on Sunday to show just how many people are dissatisfied with Russia’s current direction.

Given the wide-spread understanding that the election outcome has been predetermined, Noon Against Putin doesn’t advocate voting for any candidate over the others, though the Navalny team launched an app on Thursday assigning one of the three spoiler candidates at random for the user to vote for to ensure that no single candidate outperforms the others.

Below we outline the five possible tactics Russians opposed to Putin can use in this weekend’s election.

Tactic#1: Vote for the lesser of all evils

Many in Russia view exercising their democratic right to vote as their prime goal amid the encroachment of fascism on all aspects of personal freedom. Perhaps the most popular suggestion is to sincerely vote by ticking only one candidate’s name. By doing so, there is an increase in turnout and a larger percentage of votes allocated for candidates other than Putin.

Blogger and political activist Maxim Katz suggested in a tweet that Russians vote for the New People party candidate Vyacheslav Davankov, widely perceived as the lesser evil as his manifesto made vague pledges about peace and negotiations with Ukraine.

Tactic#2: Spoil the ballot by voting for multiple candidates

For those too sickened by Russian “democracy” to want any part of it, spoiling their ballot by voting for multiple candidates is perhaps the best option. Doing so will lower the percentage of votes received and will result in none of the Kremlin-sanctioned spoiler candidates receiving even a protest vote. Voting for everyone will become a vote “against everyone”, as political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin recently told Novaya Europe.

Voting for multiple candidates has the backing of several public figures and groups including grassroots demobilisation movement The Way Home and the liberal Yabloko party.

To these groups, spoiling the ballot remains the best way of demonstrating their discontent with a rigged election system.

Tactic#3: Spoil the ballot by writing down another name

For those unhappy with voting for multiple candidates, they may also write another name down as a way of spoiling their ballot. By writing down a name such as Navalny, their vote is discarded as invalid.

However, this is open to misuse. If the tick box is left unmarked, the ballot may be tampered with and someone may vote for Putin as the “correct” candidate anyway.

Tactic#4: Take the ballot paper home or tear it up

Russians may also choose to take their frustration out on the election system by taking the ballot paper home, and tearing it up. In doing so, the vote will not be considered, but it won’t affect the percentage of votes for any candidate.

This tactic will also protect voters from fraud as no one else is able to vote on their behalf using their ballot.

Tactic#5: Boycott the elections

Perhaps the most unreliable form of protesting against Russia’s democratic institutions — boycotting the presidential election — has only been endorsed this election season by the liberal Yabloko party, who advocated many options. While boycotting the election does disrupt turnout percentage, this decrease in participation by those who are disillusioned has traditionally benefited the candidate in power and the pro-government electorate.

Therefore, to reduce Putin’s guaranteed win, people should go to the polls regardless. Should people choose to stay at home and boycott the election, they run the risk of someone else voting for them who has been told how to “correctly” vote. This vote on their behalf will also almost certainly be in favour of Putin.

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.