The attack on her, and the lack of any public effort to prosecute vote fraud, suggests the results of the March 4 presidential election may be open to question, even though Web cameras have been bought to oversee polling places across the country. Doubts about the results could threaten the legitimacy of Vladimir V. Putin, who is intent on achieving a rousing first-round victory to dispel any uncertainty about his authority after repeated protests against him.
“I don’t know of anyone who has been prosecuted for election violations,” said Maxim Reznik, a member of the St. Petersburg City Council and a leader of the liberal Yabloko party, which made numerous complaints about fraud.
He predicts the upcoming election will also be unfair, but said the opposition has no intention of easing its pressure on Putin and his government.
“The fourth of March is not the end,” he said. “It’s just the beginning.”
Ivanova, a 53-year-old speech therapist and Russian teacher, has worked on elections for 14 years. When a city election official summoned her to a pre-election meeting last fall, she expected to rehearse the procedures she had long since mastered. Instead, a young man she had never seen before confronted her and a few others.
“You’re very experienced,” he said, as she recalled last week. “We need your help.”
His message: United Russia, the ruling party connected to Putin, needed more votes. Ivanova said she was shocked; her first thought was that her honesty was being tested. She’s a fixture at her precinct, located in School 575, where she teaches.
She lives nearby, in a historic neighborhood on Vasilyevsky Island. Her daughter teaches at the school and also serves on the election commission. Ivanova’s children went to the school, and the family — Ivanova, her husband, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and grandson — share an apartment. “We each have one room,” she said, “and we meet in the kitchen.”
Ivanova was sure United Russia would win anyway.
“We need more votes,” she quoted the man. “Your work will be noticed.”
One of the other election workers spoke up. “How much?” he asked. They would be paid, he was told, the equivalent of $2,300. As a precinct chairman, Ivanova was paid $300 for work over a three-week period.
She was summoned once again, this time in the presence of the district education official in charge of Ivanova’s school. United Russia must get an extra 200 votes, she was told.