The notice above was recently posted outside my apartment building, inviting citizens to take part in the “review and additional clarification of voter lists” for the Municipal Council of Education elections on March 1. Somebody scrawled “byez vybora” (literally, “without choice,” in other words, “no choice”) over the sheet as a pint-sized protest against Russia’s finely orchestrated elections.
As Russians are famously apathetic about elections, I doubt an 8.5 by 11 posted inconspicuously in the courtyard’s going to really get out the vote. You need a better incentive, like an order from your boss to take a picture of your vote for the pre-approved party (i.e. Putin’s United Russia) on a cell-phone camera.
The latest news in Petersburg has been filled with crackdowns on the small opposition movement in the lead-up to the March 1 elections. Opposition groups like Solidarity and Yabloko, having registered demonstrations with the government as required by law, have nevertheless been denied gathering places for inane reasons. Two-thirds of the opposition candidates who gathered the required signatures have not been registered for the elections after government experts declared their petitions invalid.
Most recently, it’s come to light that Russian police, in the finest tradition of the NKVD and the Black Marias, have been visiting the homes of people who signed opposition candidates’ petitions to intimidate them into retracting their signatures, often late at night.
All the same, Putin enjoys immense popularity and most Russians are hardly perturbed to be pressured into supporting his “authoritarian democracy.” So to whoever wrote “No choice,” way to fight the power.