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Queues at the polls for the “South against Putin” in Russia

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Queues at the polls for the “South against Putin” in Russia

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Today, starting from midday (Moscow local time, 10am in Italy), queues began to form at the polling stations in Russia, where the presidential elections are underway: largely due to the so-called “South against Putin”, one of the last political initiatives promoted by Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, who died a month ago in a Siberian prison. It is a demonstration that aims to bring together a large number of people in the same place at the same time, i.e. queuing at the polls at midday on Sunday, to demonstrate that there is still an opposition in Russia. There are 11 time zones in the country, so the protest could develop at different times.

Long queues formed at many polling stations in major cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg. The situation remained overall calm and there were no reports of major clashes or violent acts. Steve Rosenberg, a journalist from BBC which is located in Moscow, he said that in the polling station he was visiting at midday there were dozens of people queuing, of all ages. According to Rosenberg, the protest was “silent”: no one showed signs or chanted slogans.

According to the NGO OVD-Info, however, at least 63 people in 14 Russian cities were arrested at the polls on Sunday morning: 26 arrests took place in Kazan, a city about 800 kilometers east of Moscow, and another 12 in the capital.

The Telegram channel and the social accounts managed by Navalny’s former collaborators are spreading photos and videos of the queues. Some users are also sharing videos of the queues on their profiles.

There were also long queues outside Russian embassies in foreign countries where many Russian citizens live, including Armenia, Kazakhstan and Germany. Around midday Yulia Navalnayathe widow of Alexei Navalny, she joined the protest which was underway at the Russian embassy in Berlin, Germany, where he has lived for years.

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In recent days, the Russian authorities had tried to dissuade voters from joining the initiative, reminding them that any unauthorized gathering can be considered illegal, blocking the site that had been used to promote the initiative and putting pressure on state and public sector employees. major companies to vote in the days leading up to Sunday.

Voting in Russia is also accompanied by a series of events, lotteries and initiatives, both public and private, which aim to encourage voters to go and vote. For Putin it is in fact important to show high levels of consensus, with consistent turnout percentages: in various provinces in the elections mobile phone extractions are linked and appliances, competitions, concerts, gifts and events. Many of these initiatives, including those in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Ryazan provinces, announced their central events precisely at noon, to avoid people being at the polls at that time.

The Russian National Guard outside a polling station in St. Petersburg (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

In Russia, elections are not a real electoral competition because the regime of President Vladimir Putin, who has governed for over twenty years, has eliminated all opposition. Unable to vote for an independent candidate and protest openly, Navalny had therefore suggested a way in which Russian voters could show their dissent.

The “South against Putin” (in Russian “Polden vs. Putina”) was recently relaunched by Yulia Navalnaya: in a video published on YouTube at the beginning of March it said that it will serve to “help millions of people see that there are others who think the same way and understand that they are surrounded by people against war, corruption and injustice”.

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A polling station in Vladivostok (AP Photo)

However, the mobilization at midday will have no effect on the final outcome of the vote: Putin’s broad victory was never in question due to the absence of real opponents and minimal democratic guarantees. There are three other candidates on the ballot papers, in addition to Putin, all belonging to the “systemic” opposition, which has existed in Russian politics for years. It is made up of parties that are a facade of opposition, which are therefore used by the regime to give the system a semblance of democracy but which in fact vote together with Putin’s party, United Russia, on all the most important issues.

This is why the anti-corruption organization founded by Navalny did not give any indication of voting. His collaborators suggested canceling the ballot, or voting for one of the other three candidates, only animated by the principle of “anyone but Putin”. Navalny also presented the app together with the “Southern Italy against Putin” initiative “The Photon-2024”, which would have allowed you to choose “how to vote”. The app randomly chooses between the three alternative candidates, between a null vote or abstention, precisely to underline the futility of these consultations.

– Read also: Putin’s fake opponents in the Russian presidential elections

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