It has begun. Putin’s farcical referendum which was postponed due to the outbreak of the Corona virus, kicked off on the 25th of June. The referendum, which includes lotteries and promises of increased wages and pensions, will, as all elections during Putin, be fraught with fake votes, double counting, intimidating people to vote and other nefarious activities to make sure that Putin will get the result he wants. Never mind that the referendum about a new constitution is unconstitutional no matter what the rubber stamp Constitutional court expressed.
But why believe me when I warite that I believe that also this election won’t be free and fair? Let’s see what independent political scientists have said about previous Russian elections since Putin became president. In the project Varities of Democracy, (https://www.v-dem.net/en/), countries are assessed with respect to how the conditions in them are compatible with democracy. For example, are elections clean and not marred with by fraud? Can civil society organisations voice their opinions? Is there freedom of expression?
Not so much. According to V-Dem, conditions for clean elections, electoral democracy were bad already before Putin. And as almost everything else in Russia, those conditions have deteriorated since he became Tzar.
Figure 1. Electoral democracy since Putin was installed as president.
Source: V-Dem https://www.v-dem.net/en/ Note: Electoral Democracy Index. The indicator ranges from 0 to 1, where 0 reflects a situation incompatible with democracy. The index reflects to what extent elections are clean and not marred by fraud, civil society organisations can operate freely and there is freedom of expression and independent media presenting alternative views to that of the regime.