Election reporting

Leaders of Russia’s ruling United Russia party were in a good mood on Sunday night as the results of the country’s local elections streamed in. ‘You have received the votes of the people, who trust you’, party chairman (and former Prime Minister and President) Dmitry Medvedev told candidates. ‘All our [gubernatorial] candidates … will win in the first round … and likewise in the regional and municipal parliaments United Russia will form a majority in every region without exception’, added party general secretary Andrei Turchak.

Turchak wasn’t exactly right about the results, but not far off. United Russia has reason to be happy. Its candidates for governor were elected with thumping majorities, even in Irkutsk, where it had been predicted it might lose. And in city and regional elections, the party was consistently top, generally getting around 45% of the vote, some 30% or so above its nearest competitors, the Communists and LDPR.

And yet, that’s not what you’d think if you went by the stories in the Western media today, which focused almost entirely on miniscule gains by supporters of opposition activist Alexei Navalny. ‘Russia opposition makes gains in local elections,’ ran the headline on the BBC website. ‘Navalny allies win council seats as Putin’s party claims victory’, said that in the Guardian. ‘Alexei Navalny’s allies claim council wins in Russia local elections’, shouts Deutsche Welle. And so on. You’d imagine that the elections were indicators of some significant shift in the political tide.

So what were these great gains? Navalny-backed candidates won 2 seats in the city of Tomsk, and 5 in Novosibirsk. That’s it. A grand total of 7 council seats. To be fair, it’s 7 more than they’ve ever had before, and so in that respect, it’s progress. But it’s hardly a significant result in the grander scheme of things. Across the country, United Russia governors were being elected with shares of the vote of 70 or so percent. Is ‘Opposition makes gains’ really the appropriate way of reporting the results? Methinks not, but it’s an interesting insight into the mentality of the Western press corps.

10 thoughts on “Election reporting”

  1. Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that Navalny is up and about, chatty, and says he wants to return to Russia. One of 2 possibilities that I can think of:

    (1) Lukashenko’s revelations shook up the German secret-service and made them re-think whatever hare-brained plan they had concocted; or
    (2) This news is a fake, since nobody has actually seen Navalny. He could be dead, for all we know. Recall that Skripal’s daughter, when she came out of her Novichok-induced “coma” also said she wanted to return to Russia; but then nobody ever saw her again.

    We shall have to wait and see. Meanwhile, Russian blog commenters are not thrilled with news of Navalny’s return. One commenter posted: “He’s like a cockroach, you just can’t get rid of him, even with poison.”

    Which sounds harsh, until you remember that Navalny, in his famous video, once compared Caucasians to cockroaches.


  2. You know, there is a reason, why this “smart-voting” (rus. “умное голосование”), shortened to УГ, actually stands for “glum shit” («унылое говно»).

    Navalny, you see, is a brand name in the West. In reality, he’s like the proverbial frog inflated through the straw (to the point of nearly bursting). The Narrative is that Fearless Leader of the Opposition ™ is Struggling. Meanwhile, his cohorts are Striking the Blow to the Bloody Regime ™. General Western public (and domestic fifth column) feels good – the Enemy (Putin) is suffering/covers in fear/howls in impotent rage (underline as needed for the purpose of the article).

    That’s not a factual reporting. That’s a wartime propaganda. How can the “thinking people” out there still have any doubts about the Free and Independent Western Media ™ modus operandi?

    Propaganda is important even if its lying/preaching to the choir. It maintains the alternative reality of its target audience and of its perpetrator, making them to believe the type of content they are producing.

    Facts? Wanna facts? In 2011 the very same Western Pressies reported that Navalny had 100 000+ and would be storming Kremlin any day now (with the inevitable headlines “The downfall of the Regime is assured”). Now?

    At stake were *78 239* mandates all across Russia. “Smart voting” decided to support 1171 candidates in 66+ regional election campaigns of all levels (from the municipal elections to regional). In the end, they managed to “break through Regime’s barriers” and elect… *7*. That’s 0.6% success rate. Now “Navalnists” managed to win a whopping 0.009% of the deputy seats. Wheee!

    BTW, speaking about some of the “Navalny” candidates – the personas of these people might surprise you. E.g., yesterday, the notorious (defended the practice of pedophilia among other things) municipal deputy of the St. Pete’s City Duma and liberal “Yabloco” member Borukh Lazarevich Vishnevsky posted this angry post:

    The gist of it:

    A) Thanks to the “smart voting” Novosibirsk city council now has a new deputy – Rostislav Antonov.

    B) Mr. Vishnevsky is mighty saddened by this fact, because R. Antonov is:
    – “A nationalist, imperets (kinda “Greater Russian chauvinist”), putinist” (c)
    – “Supports Crimea’s reunion with Russia” (c) (Mr. Visnevsky puts scary quote marks around “reunion”),
    – “Organizer for volunteers, who then fought in Donbass” (c) (again – scary quotes around “volunteers”)
    – “Gathered signature to immortalize the memory of the terrorist “Motorola”” (c) (note the absence of the scary quotes around the word “terrorist”)
    – “Supports war in Syria” (c)
    – “Voted in supports of Putin’s amendments for Constitution” (c)
    – “Have been calling “worms” those people, who bring flowers tot the Boris Nemtsov’s bridge” (c) (note – there is no such toponym in Moscow, the bridge where late and unlamented Borukh Nemtsov ended his days is still Kuznetsky).

    C) Meanwhile, in the same electoral district there was a perfect “Yabloco” candidatess – eco activistess Natalia Chubykina. Which the “smart voting” refused to support.

    D) The cherry on the top? There were no (NO, ZERO, NADA) United Russia candidates running in this particular district. So, according to Mr. Vishnevsky, there is no excuse for such “tactical voting”, that prefers “fake opposition” of KPRF, LDPR or The Just Russia, over “real opposition” of his beloved party.

    I have a question – are both Russia-watchers and Western pressies operating here have an actual, working knowledge of the vicissitudes and, well, all the drama, which makes up the reality of the proverbial serpentarium (“den of vipers” is too small) which is “Russian non-systemic opposition”)? Or, maybe, lack of this burden of knowledge actually helps them forming their “opinions” (in fact – pure projections) or make “reporting”?

    What about you, Professor?

    P.S. Isn’t it obvious? Navalny – father Gapon of our time. I for one won’t be surprised, if someone inside the “real opposition” was behind his recent health troubles.


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