An election recount is underway in one Russian district after President Vladimir Putin failed to win the vote there, according to local reports.

In fact, one of Putin's political rivals in the recent presidential election was recorded as gaining 10 times as many votes, reports said.

The polling station, in the city of Barnaul, in the southern republic of Altai, counted 763 votes for Communist Party candidate Nikolai Kharitonov, compared with just 73 for Putin, independent Russian news outlet Meduza reported, citing local sources.

The polling station is now undertaking a recount, after its results received considerable media attention, Meduza reported.

Officials say a data entry error led to inflated results for Kharitonov, the outlet reported.

A Russian district called an election recount after someone else got more votes than Putin, reports say

Why do Russians vote when the elections are rigged? North Koreans are forced to vote, because the state uses it to see if there's any dissenting people who are against the undemocratic regime, but in Russia voting is not mandatory, so why would the Russian people vote despite widespread electoral fraud?

  • 1
    Good Q; somewhat related history.stackexchange.com/questions/25829/… Commented Mar 20 at 0:30
  • Please refrain from starting opinion-based discussions in comments. Comments are supposed to help the OP to improve their question if needed.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 20 at 13:25
  • 27
    Perhaps it would be better to refer to it as a sham election, as the European Council on Foreign Relations did. "Rigged" implies election-day shenanigans, and I see multiple answers are using that technicality to talk as if they were perfectly up-front Democratic elections.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 20 at 13:46
  • "Why do Russians vote..." The question could have shown much more research to first establish how many Russians actually do vote before asking the why question. Always go step by step. Are there any independent estimations of the voter turnout in the last Russian election? Maybe Russians didn't vote and the question is not relevant. Commented Mar 20 at 18:18
  • 6
    Poeple doubting that this election was rigged, unfair and sham might ask for proofs in another question on Politics.SE or on Skeptics.SE, but that shouldn't stop this question from standing and getting answers.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 21 at 13:13

7 Answers 7


First of all, most people don't know for sure that the elections are rigged.

As an election observer myself, only one out of the three election votings I directly watched turned out rigged. The elections of 2024 do indeed show signs of being the most rigged so far, but for a number of years the voting that were held in e.g. Moscow were reasonably fair. The Kremlin will change the rules every few years to make sure the odds are stacked in their favor, as well as curate the content of ballots, but they didn't always need to make the voting itself fake.

Secondly, people in many ways treat it as a public show (where they bring their children to) and as doing their civil duty, especially non-politicized majority which Putin has spent two decades creating. As I've noticed elsewhere, it's viewed as embarrassing to exhibit any political views in Russia. People in public roles have to do this as a part of their job. Otherwise, having loud pro-government or opposition views is seen as a slight personality defect.

Of course, Putin also has a core group of voters who will make effort to show up and vote no matter what. People retired due to old age also show up to the voting stations reliably - they watch TV which encourages them to, and it's not like they have too many things going on with them, though this may be changing in the future.

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    In this case, the election was pre-rigged by not allowing any serious anti-government candidates on the ballot (and in fact murdering some of them). Thus no need for the kind of overt shenanigans that might be caught by election observers.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 20 at 13:40
  • 4
    ...that being said, there were in fact still reports of election-day shenanigans, including people being forced to vote at gunpoint
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 20 at 13:55
  • @T.E.D. In weasel words the article mentions "reports" of gunpoint voting without providing any of these, which carries zero value without fact checking as anybody can mention being reported anything.
    – alamar
    Commented Mar 25 at 11:18
  • @alamar Though these "reports" can be questioned its important to also ask yourself what other evidence you expect to come from a situation like this. If Ukrainians are indeed being held at gun point and told to vote we can't really expect them to start filming the event as evidence. (Not usually advisable to upset the people with guns). Commented Mar 26 at 16:35

The Soviet Union had a long culture of punishing people for doing things that were permitted. For instance, going to church was formally permitted, but everybody knew it was way safer and much better for their career to be an Atheist. Numerous freedoms were guaranteed in the Constitution, yet not cared for at all. People learned to be careful.

Not so much time has passed. People who lived under Stalin are still alive. They will tell the next generation, be careful. The slave mentality is still here (known from the times from St.Peter denial and no nation is immune, do not take personally). And the biggest problem about this mentality is, fear forces genuine belief as the safest alternative. Due to that, I am sure Putin is genuinely popular. No doubt about this. Stalin is. Mao Zedong still is. Why not?

I agree V.Putin would have reached tens of percents anyway, but with B.Nadezhdin, let alone A.Navalny being his rivals, I am not so sure about the victory.

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    AFAIK most people in Russia don't even know who that Navalny guy is, it's like knowing about the representative of one of those smaller parties that appear on ballots in European countries (Fabien Roussel who?). Only in the West is he upheld on all channels as a some possible contender for a post-regime-change operation. And really, Nadezhdin? Not a chance. Commented Mar 20 at 13:46
  • 20
    People did know who Navanly is, as an example he got almost 25% of votes on Moscow mayor elections. That was at the peak of his political career (if you can have one in Russia at all), and it mostly went downhill after that, not without assistance of Kremlin of course.
    – alamar
    Commented Mar 20 at 14:01
  • 8
    @alamar Whis is nice. Wikipedia helpfully recites that Navalny received 27.24% and that the turnout was 32.03% in the 2013 mayoral campaign. But there is a lot of distance between a regional campaign 10 years ago and a nationwide presidential campaign now. Commented Mar 20 at 14:32
  • 3
    Ongoing war and mobilization may make a significant difference on the popularity of anti-war politicians.
    – Stančikas
    Commented Mar 20 at 15:00

No elections are completely rigged.

As a matter of fact, Russian opposition used to have small victories here and there. Well, after each of these, the "loopholes" used were closed.

Even when one is determined to vote for change and there is no real opposition on the ballot, one can still make the ballot invalid or vote for the outsider that is usually present. At small scale it even happens that the outsider wins.

A lot of people are actually forced to vote

People on government payroll are particularly vulnerable. These are quite a few in Russia.

The "ability" to vote electronically means that a lot of people vote in the privacy of their manager's office. Or completely give away their credentials.

A great deal of people don't see anything wrong with rigged elections

Russia has an entrenched culture of selectively ignoring the rules at all levels. The average Ivan is tolerated taking something from his workplace, the president is tolerated rigging the elections. Fair.

There is a strong tradition

... from the USSR times when voting was obligatory (or almost obligatory) for everyone. It was as much pointless either (from the voter viewpoint), but not voting was detrimental.

As a rare oportunity to see other opposition supporters

Adopting @Kromster coment: Also worth mentioning that these elections were one of the very few not-punishable options for people supporting the opposition to gather and actually see each other (just like casting votes for Nadezhdin's campaign earlier)

The Russian democracy fails at so many levels (not only elections) that discussing does Putin has some genuine support, or not, is completely moot. There is no viable alternative so one cannot simply ask, no matter how much confidentially, the average Russian on the street if he approves Putin, or someone else. There is no someone else.

But, elections are still important - not because they can change anything, but because they test the whole system and show everyone that it works.

  • 3
    Also worth mentioning that these elections were one of the very few not-punishable options for people supporting the opposition to gather and actually see each other (just like casting votes for Nadezhdin's campaign earlier).
    – Kromster
    Commented Mar 22 at 12:16

I don't know if you're aware, but Putin is genuinely popular in Russia and will likely win any election, even if they are "free and fair" under Western standards (which they will never be, because it is in Western interests to portray Russian elections as not free or fair). When you see statements like "the elections are rigged", keep in mind that the Western media (with a few exceptions) is trying to push the idea that Putin should not have won.

You can see indications of this in your original quote. 763 votes for Kharitonov, 73 for Putin makes it sound like the sky is falling for Putin, which is what the Western media is shooting for. But when you take into consideration that there were roughly 80 million votes cast, a difference of 700 votes will have literally no impact on the election results. It's not dissimilar from how Trump perpetually harps on a few hundred disputed ballots to "prove" that he should have been the winner in the 2020 US Presidential election.

Once you accept the idea that Putin is genuinely popular in Russia, then the answer is obvious enough: if you support Putin, why wouldn't you vote?

  • 22
    It isn't "Western media" pushing these points. It's "media that isn't beholden to Russian interests and subject to arbitrary retribution" that reports on the facts and implications. If Russian democracy and elections were truly free and fair, the Russian media and politicians that oppose Putin wouldn't keep mysteriously dying in custody, being arrested for "holding a protest" or shut down and banned for "being the opposition in government ".
    – Nij
    Commented Mar 20 at 5:26
  • 7
    @Nij To illustrate, you mention "politicians that oppose Putin ... mysteriously dying in custody". Indeed, Navalny's death does not reflect well on the Putin administration. But if you are under the impression that Navalny could actually have threatened Putin in the election, you are incorrect - only ~2% of the electorate support him. But that is never mentioned by Western media, of course, because they're pushing the idea that he could have.
    – Allure
    Commented Mar 20 at 5:54
  • 30
    You honestly and truly believe that polls asking whether the dictator known to use arrest and murder against his opponents is okay, are trustworthy?
    – Nij
    Commented Mar 20 at 6:16
  • 8
    US itself says it: The New Atlas: US Government-Funded Polling Validates 2024 Russian Elections - West Simply Doesn't Like the Outcome. US government-funded polling via the Levada Center indicates Russian President Vladimir Putin as of 2024, has an 86% approval rating, very close to the 87.3% electoral outcome of President Putin's re-election. Conversely, President Putin's "fiercest opponent," according to the same US government-funded polling organization, had single-digit approval ratings as of 2023. Commented Mar 20 at 13:44
  • 4
    @alamar I'm not disputing Putin isn't liked among Russians. However, it's not really possible to have reliable opinion polls in a country which has laws that can see you arrested if you say things that are considered to be hostile to the government, or its activities. It doesn't mean everyone hates Putin, but it does mean that opinions polls, whether western or Russian, aren't going to be able to get an accurate or reliable result. At most it will show Putin has a strong grip on the populace, but with no indication as to whether this is popularity or fear (though likely both)
    – kenod
    Commented Mar 20 at 15:20

A fact rarely mentioned by Western mainstream media is that Putin’s approval rating rose instead of falling after the invasion of Ukraine.

Exit polls show Vladimir Putin winning a huge majority in Russia’s presidential election which had only one possible result. Polls suggest 71-year-old Putin has won the election with nearly 88% of the vote, and will overtake Joseph Stalin to become Russia’s longest-serving leader for more than 200 years. Putin was standing for the six-year term against three candidates from parties who have not criticised his rule nor his invasion of Ukraine.

but in 2018

Putin won reelection for his second consecutive (fourth overall) term in office with 77% of the vote. Vladimir Zhirinovsky from the Liberal Democratic Party was the perennial candidate, having unsuccessfully run in five previous presidential elections. Other candidates included Pavel Grudinin (Communist Party), Sergey Baburin (Russian All-People's Union), Ksenia Sobchak (Civic Initiative), Maxim Suraykin (Communists of Russia), Boris Titov (Party of Growth) and Grigory Yavlinsky (Yabloko). Anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny announced his intent to run in December 2016 but was barred from doing so due to a prior criminal conviction, which was widely seen as politically motivated,[1][2][3] for corruption. Consequently, Navalny called for a boycott of the election. He had previously organized several public rallies against corruption among members of Putin's government.

also see the trends :

Do you approve of the activities of Vladimir Putin as the president (prime minister) of Russia?

  • 5
    It's probably difficult to really measure the popularity of Putin in Russia because people asked might not answer truthfully, but how have the official poll numbers developed? Is Putin's popularity according to the polls increasing or decreasing lately? A chart over the years maybe would be good. Commented Mar 20 at 18:26
  • 1
    It's normal for the leader's approval rating to rise at the start of a war.
    – Mark
    Commented Mar 20 at 22:55

Russia is tricky. Reality is that Putin is actually more popular in Russia as the western leaders in their own countries. He does not really need to "finetune" the elections, he would win it anyways.

Note, case is similar about Kim Jong Un. About a third of the population dislikes him1. That is a normal value for a stable, well-established, fairly elected government.

We can talk about, why is it so. Anti-Western explanation is that democracy in the form defined by the collective West, is simply not attractive for these countries. Another endless story, why is it so.

The pro-western explanation is that these people are the object of generation long brainwash.

You have your multiple views and you are free to choice between them.

1There is no way to measure it. Info is from an escaped member of the North Korean internal police, afaik I have seen it on the youtube

  • 1
    This answer omits the fact, that any alternatives were rooted out systematically before the election day (some years ago and some weeks ago before this election).
    – Kromster
    Commented Mar 22 at 12:06
  • 1
    @Kromster There were 4 candidates on the election, they were not rooted out. Btw, in the opinion polls of the approval/disapproval rate, obviously only the president takes part. If you think to the Navalny case, first he only had 2% and second watch this.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Mar 22 at 16:34
  • 3
    "He does not really need to "finetune" the elections, he would win it anyways" - and yet he does "finetune" them. Why is that? Commented Mar 23 at 8:04
  • @snakecharmerb I think they were not really finetuned. Note, most of the tricks must be done before the votes, after the papers are in the urns, only very primitive tricks would work. Good election cheat works so, they everybody knows, the computers where he voted, are fairly programmed and the electronic voting is okay. Oops, sorry, that is not Russia, there is only paper vote. So, good election cheat works so that all the participants can send a delegate into all voting circles, and they watch eatch other (while they have opposite interests).
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Mar 23 at 16:22
  • @snakecharmerb Sorry but there should no such tihng that electronic voting, mail voting and similars exist. If someone is blind, or someone can not move, and in similar cases, the voter must register before the election. Then, a thing called "moving urn" visits him, which is being cared by two, opposite interesting party delegate, and he/sha can vote so. But this is an exceptional thing. The ordinary and only possible way to vote, is that you visit the voting circle where you live, and you put the "X" to a paper, with a pen, behind curtains, and then you put your vote into the urn
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Mar 23 at 16:29

A substantial, perhaps a major, fraction of Russian people:

  • Are pro-Putin.
  • Are against the (perceived) Western-sponsored enemies of Putin (basically, all who oppose Putin's policies).
  • Do not believe that elections in Russia are rigged.

There is evidence for this in numerous official and unofficial polls.

This phenomenon is helped by propaganda on the Russian state TV, other media, and the remaining social media. Again, plenty of evidence for this.

But whatever the reason, this sizable fraction of people have their (apparently rational to them) reasons to vote for Putin.

Note also that there was a strong (by Russian standards) opposition movement to cast the spoiled ballots on the last day of voting. This was designed to make it harder for the Russian government to fake the election numbers. But these people voted too - in essence, against Putin (by means of incorrectly filled ballots). This was widely covered at least on anti-Putin social media.

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