By Paul Goble
Because participation and support for Vladimir Putin in Tatarstan were relatively high this year and because republic officials have every reason to stress that rather than anything else, few have pointed out that 113,172 fewer Tatarstan residents voted for the Kremlin leader this time than did six years ago.
Putin lost 18,000 supporters in Kazan, 16,000 in Zelenodolsk, and 12,000 in Almetyevsk; and in an indication that this reflected a real change in the president’s support, the falloff was greatest in polling places with electronic voting machines where falsification was more difficult, according to Radio Svoboda’s Tatar-Bashkir Service (idelreal.org/a/29132435.html).
In Kazan precincts with electronic voting machines, the service reports, Putin garnered only 68 percent of all voters, “that is, less than in Moscow and St. Petersburg.” Much of the decline in support for Putin reflected a decline in the number of Tatarstan residents who took part in the voting. That figure was down this year by 120,000 compared to 2012.
Tatarstan was not the only place where the number of Putin voters declined. It was also the case in many other non-Russian republics: In Mordvinia, there were 99,935 fewer Putin voters; in Daghestan, 27,439; in Sakha, 23,767; and even in Chechnya, 17.772 fewer than in the election of 2012 despite a growth in the total number of those qualified to vote in all of them.
“It is not excluded that the real number of votes for president in the republic could have been still fewer than reported by the regional election authorities,” given that they were lower almost everywhere where there were voting machines – exclusively in the cities — than where there were not – in rural areas where observers were fewer and falsification possibilities greater.
Thus, for example, if one considers the precincts in Kazan with voting machines, Putin received only 67.6 percent of the vote while in the city as a whole he got 75.9 percent. (And his real as opposed to expressed support undoubtedly was lower still: one expert says Tatars voted for Putin to not undercut Kazan’s leaders (idelreal.org/a/rafael-khakimov-interview/29130429.html).
The Radio Svoboda report notes that there was one precinct with machine voting where the result was just the opposite. In Leninogorsk, those in that precinct reportedly gave Putin 98.9 percent of their votes, a highly improbable result even in places like Chechnya let alone Tatarstan.
This is the first of what one hopes will be detailed analyses of the 2018 presidential vote in Russia’s republics and regions, part of the return of the Soviet problem of “the missing one percent.” (For a discussion of that trend, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/03/are-russian-elections-again-going-to-be.html.)