NewsRussia's 'Noon Against Putin' Strategy Aims to Circumvent Electoral Fraud

Russia's 'Noon Against Putin' Strategy Aims to Circumvent Electoral Fraud

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 2024/03/15: A screenshot captured from a video featured on the Kremlin Press Service website on March 15 depicts Russian President Vladimir Putin participating in a virtual ceremony marking the commencement of construction for the Moscow-St. Petersburg high-speed railway (HSR) and the pouring of the inaugural concrete into the foundation of power unit No. 7 at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant. The construction of the Moscow-St. Petersburg high-speed railway is outlined in the draft Transport Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2030. This route aims to significantly reduce travel time between the two capitals to 2 hours and 15 minutes, with trains scheduled to operate every 10-15 minutes. The first of these trains is anticipated to commence operation by 2028. (Photo by Artem Priakhin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 2024/03/15: A screenshot captured from a video featured on the Kremlin Press Service website on March 15 depicts Russian President Vladimir Putin participating in a virtual ceremony marking the commencement of construction for the Moscow-St. Petersburg high-speed railway (HSR) and the pouring of the inaugural concrete into the foundation of power unit No. 7 at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant. The construction of the Moscow-St. Petersburg high-speed railway is outlined in the draft Transport Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2030. This route aims to significantly reduce travel time between the two capitals to 2 hours and 15 minutes, with trains scheduled to operate every 10-15 minutes. The first of these trains is anticipated to commence operation by 2028. (Photo by Artem Priakhin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Images source: © GETTY | SOPA Images

8:22 AM EDT, March 16, 2024

"Come to the polling station at 6:00 AM Eastern Time on Sunday, form a line, and vote for anyone but Putin" - this directive for Russia's presidential elections is spreading through opposition media. It raises the question: will this strategy be effective? Optimists believe it could spark significant protests.

The initiative, known as "noon against Putin," has become a rallying cry in Russia for those opposing the Kremlin's rule. It also serves as a homage to Alexei Navalny. "We are about to witness the true potential for resistance within Russian society," states Professor Krzysztof Żęgota from the Institute of Political Sciences at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, who specializes in Russian security policy.

The presidential election in Russia, scheduled from March 15 to 17, has sparked discussion about strategies to oppose Putin. Independent outlets Verstka and Meduza have highlighted tactics beyond boycotting or spoiling ballots, deemed ineffective because, as candidate Boris Nadiezdin, excluded from the race, pointed out, "The easiest votes to manipulate are from those who don't show up." Since the Russian electoral system does not require a minimum turnout, boycotted elections would remain valid.

Thus, Russian oppositionist Maxim Reznik proposes what seems to be an optimal plan. The "noon against Putin" action entails opponents gathering at polling stations by 6:00 AM Eastern Time on Sunday, transforming queues into demonstrations of dissent. "Navalny, before his untimely death, called for opposition to Putin on March 17 at noon," recalls Maxim Kats, a leading opposition political blogger. He estimates that Putin faces opposition from 30 million Russians.

The strategy cleverly circumvents the risk of arrest, as Russian authorities have no grounds to detain individuals simply for voting. Conversely, attending protests following Navalny's death became a pretext for arrests. Therefore, participants in this action face minimal risk, observes Professor Żęgota.

In Moscow, preliminary calls to vote against Putin have been circulated. An intriguing letter found in an elevator proclaims: "See you at noon on 03/17/24. You are not alone!"

Moscow. Note left in the elevator encourages voting against Putin. "See you at noon 03.17.24. You are not alone!"
Moscow. Note left in the elevator encourages voting against Putin. "See you at noon 03.17.24. You are not alone!"© X | PoldenProtivPu

One aspect of Navalny's legacy was the promotion of strategic voting - choosing the candidate whose views align most closely with anti-war sentiments. "There are suggestions to reject Vladislav Davankov," Professor Żęgota notes. Davankov, from the New People party, feigns liberalism to appear as a moderate alternative to Putin. If opposition support coalesces around Davankov, he could potentially achieve remarkable results.

Currently, Davankov is the "only anti-war candidate." Although he hasn't directly opposed the war, he suggested in an interview that "negotiations are an option, but only on our terms."

However, Davankov does not seek support from dissidents, highlighting the absurdity of elections tailored for Putin. The Verstka magazine recounts how, during the 2018 local elections in the Khabarovsk Territory, voters chose deputy Sergei Furgal in an act of defiance against Putin’s party candidate, leading to Furgal's arrest and resignation despite his attempts to decline the win.

A survey from Russian Field in early March showed Putin with 81.8% support, contrasted with 7.4% for Davankov.

"Preparations for the so-called elections proceeded as planned, with Putin blocking any real competitors," Professor Żęgota explains. He suggests that if actual support for Putin fell short, the vote counts would likely be adjusted to match expectations.

High voter turnout on the final day is seen as a deterrent against fraud. Hence, the opposition's plan is set for Sunday, March 17. Experts also recommend against taking ballots home to prevent rigging, referencing incidents from the 2020 vote where missing ballots were added to urns.

Another form of "protest voting" includes spoiling the ballot by crossing out names or adding derogatory terms. Opposition figures like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Dmitry Gudkov encourage writing Navalny's name on the ballot as a form of protest, united in the conviction that one must not vote for Putin.

Related content