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Chechen precinct gives 107 percent

As usual, the restive region of Chechnya went a bit over the top with the election fraud in Russia's presidential contest, with 99.59 percent reported turnout and 99.82 percent of voters backing Vladimir Putin. One precinct, according to the New York Times, really went above and beyond: 

The final tally: Putin, 1,482 votes; Gennady A. Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader, one vote.

This result was in itself statistically improbable. But even more difficult for the teachers who had been drafted onto the electoral commission to explain was the turnout: there were only 1,389 people registered in the precinct, meaning that the turnout was 107 percent.

Given what was going on elsewhere in the region, it's not really hard to understand how this happened: 

Through the day in this neighborhood of Grozny, dozens of minibuses, some bearing the emblem of the local Gazprom affiliate, ChechenRegionGaz, shuttled voters to, from and — significantly — between polling stations.

It was hardly concealed. Asked what she was doing entering more than one polling station, one woman replied without hesitation, “We’re voting.”

Marieta N. Beshirova, a nurse, bundled in a felt coat against a frigid mist drifting down from the Caucasus Mountains, piled out of an ambulance at one polling station with other hospital employees. “If our Ramzan needs us to vote, we will vote,” she said, referring to the region’s leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov. “And we will do it wholeheartedly,” she added, without any enthusiasm.

This goes back to a recent post I wrote on election results in non-democratic elections. While the contests are equally undemocratic, there's a significant difference between countries like Iran and Russia -- where victories tend to be in the 60s -- and places like Cuba and North Korea -- where they're closer to 95 or even 99 percent. 

Russia's something of a hybrid case. Nationwide, Putin took a high but certainly statistically possible 63 percent. Chechnya is essentially a North Korea-like island of absolute dictatorship within Putin's managed democracy. 

One wonders why the Kremlin continues to allow this sort of thing to go on in Chechnya -- it doesn't exactly help Putin's global image to have the fraud be quite this blatant. It seems like either Putin is essentialy giving Ramzan Kadyrov pretty free rein to rule Chechnya as he sees fit, or he views the election as an opportunity to demonstrate absolute power over a previously rebellious region.  

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Mayawati out?

The biggest election this week was not Russia's presidential contest or tonight's Super Tuesday vote in the United States, it was India's state elections, particularly the contest in Uttar Pradesh which, with 200 million residents, would be the world's fifth largest country -- slightly larger than Brazil -- if it were independent. 

There are two big storylines coming out of the elections. The first was the setback dealt to India's ruling Congress Party, and possible future prime minister Rahul Gandhi: 

Political analysts said the Congress Party’s poor showing in Uttar Pradesh raised doubts about its ability to win re-election at the federal level in 2014 as well as Mr. Gandhi’s prospects as a future prime minister. In New Delhi, Congress governs with the support of several regional parties, at least one of which has publicly threatened to withdraw its support over policy differences.

“Congress needs more coalition partners to retain power in 2014,” said C.P. Bhambhi, a professor and the former dean of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “It will be difficult for Congress to repeat the 2009 election performance.”

But the bigger shock may be the ouster of UP Chief Minister Mayawati, the flamboyant and controversial "Dalit Queen" who has been in office since 2007:

The firebrand chief minister of Uttar Pradesh was set to lose office after her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) fell to a projected 86 seats in the 403-seat state assembly after winning 206 in the previous election.

Mayawati, 56, who only uses one name, rose from a community of "untouchables" (now known as Dalits) at the bottom of the Hindu caste structure to rule over Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India with a population of 200 million.

The likely next chief minister of UP will be Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi party, an aging former wrestler and onetime defence minister of India who has held the chief minister job twice before, trading back and forth with his arch-rival Mayawati since 1991. Though as the New York Times notes, he may just be keeping the seat warm for his son:

Mr. Varshney and other analysts said the big winner in Uttar Pradesh was Akhilesh Singh Yadav, who like Mr. Gandhi is the relatively young heir of a political family.

Mr. Yadav, 39, transformed the image of the Samajwadi Party, which his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, founded and still leads, from thuggish and backward to progressive. In the recent campaign, the younger Mr. Yadav promised free tablet and laptop computers to high school and college students; in earlier elections, the party had pledged to remove computers from government offices to create more jobs.

Mayawati's defeat is being touted by some as a defeat for caste-based politics -- though it would be a mistake to caste a perrenial comeback-artist like Mayawati out for good. 

STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images