The Czech Republic-based President of the International Russian Award Foundation, long-time associate of Fort Russ’ guest analyst, Dr. Eduard Popov, and contributing author to the Center for Syncretic Studies, Alexander Gegalchiy, recently served as an international observer to the Russian presidential elections on March 18th. Below we are pleased to present an exclusive interview conducted by Dr. Popov with Mr. Gegalchiy on his experience monitoring the Russian elections. [Translated by Jafe Arnold]
Eduard Popov: Mr. Gegalchiy, how would you evaluate democratic standards and voter participation over the course of these elections?
Alexander Gegalchiy: This was the first time, I think, that the Russians partially introduced electronic voting. Clearly, this has both positive and negative sides, but it attracted both voters and observers. The organizers had to explain and demonstrate how things worked to both. I was impressed by the calm, temperate attitude towards foreign observers. There were no suspicious grimaces or admonitory signs, and all questions received friendly answers. We worked the whole day, so voter activity varied, but it was very lively at polling stations all day.
Popov: At which polling stations did you work? Were there other foreign observers besides you?
Gegalchiy: Our group consisted of 12 people, including politicians and public figures from Germany, Jordan, Nicaragua, and the Czech Republic. We visited six polling stations located throughout Moscow’s districts as well as in the famous House of Scientists in the heart of the city, where there was a beautiful concert hall and an exhibition of classical paintings. We did not cross paths with other foreign groups, but we worked with observers from the Moscow Civic Chamber and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.
Popov: What approximate results were obtained at these precincts?
Gegalchiy: Turnout activity at precincts ranged from 40% around midday to 60% towards the evening. Allow me to mention that seeing as how only 18% of voters turned out for senate elections in the Czech Republic, clearly the figures in Moscow are impressive. And the results in the provinces were even higher. Sure, in the breakaway Lugansk People’s Republic, the people voted to secede from Ukraine with a participation of up to 90%, but there it was a matter of life and death.
Popov: How would you explain the ultra-high results that the acting, and now incumbent President Vladimir Putin claimed?
Gegalchiy: One Muscovite with whom I talked at a polling station in a school said very simply and convincingly: “Putin has won the high trust of Russian society.” Of course, everywhere in Moscow people joked that a significant increase in votes for Putin was guaranteed by his agent in the UK, Theresa May. According to various estimates, she brought Vladimir Vladimirovich an additional 4 to 6%.
Popov: Thank you!