In the New York Times, the former World Chess Champion walks us through what Venezuela’s 2018 election is probably going to look like if the regime gets away with the “recallicide”:
Once I had been selected in a real election that wasn’t official [the primaries], it was time for me to participate in an official election that was completely fake.
In order to do this, I had to jump through the official and unofficial hoops that had been put in place to prevent unapproved candidates from making it onto a ballot. Two million signatures were needed from all over the country in just one month, a task made even more herculean by the sheer size of Russia. A nominating congress had to be held, an apparently simple chore that became impossible when no hotel would rent a suitable space to us. Even American-owned hotel chains mysteriously canceled our reservations.
While I traveled across the country to campaign, we would find venues suddenly closed for repairs, our flights canceled, our meetings shut down by the police. Nor did I quite manage to stay out of jail, spending five days in a Moscow cell for participating in an “unauthorized rally.”
Sometimes, the excessive zeal of apparatchiks produces returns of more than 100 percent, as happens regularly in Russian regions like Chechnya.
Rigging an election isn’t only a matter of stuffing ballot boxes. It is not even that “the people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do,” as the apocryphal quote attributed to Joseph Stalin has it. By the time the voting begins, the game is already over. Anyone who opposes the regime — from peaceful street protesters to the wealthiest man in the country — is targeted. The Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent a decade in prison for daring to support political groups outside of Mr. Putin’s control.
The fraud that does occur on Election Day is more about showing loyalty and getting the numbers just right to keep up appearances. Busloads of official voters go from polling station to polling station in a tradition we even have a name for: a “carousel.” Sheaves of ballots are dumped into urns while polling officials stand in the way to block the view. Sometimes, the excessive zeal of apparatchiks produces returns of more than 100 percent, as happens regularly in Russian regions like Chechnya.
To this day, I do not like the title “former Russian presidential candidate” because I knew at the start that my name would never appear on a ballot. The former prime minister Mikhail M. Kasyanov was allowed to progress one step further in his own independent run in 2008 — before being disqualified two months later.
The only candidates allowed to run in the presidential election against Mr. Putin’s handpicked successor, the former prime minister Dmitri A. Medvedev, were the same token Communist and the same token nationalist who had been running in every election since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Medvedev got 71.2 percent, a tactful few tenths of a percentage point less than Mr. Putin received in 2004. Four years later, Mr. Medvedev again switched desks with Mr. Putin, who hadn’t left power for a second regardless of his official title of prime minister. President Obama called Mr. Putin to congratulate him on his election victory, once again, as president.
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