Search the Site

Was the Russian Election Fraudulent?

The Times today published a compelling report of first-hand observations of election fraud in Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. There are mounting protests; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced “serious concerns” about the election and called for a “full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation.”

But what if those first-hand observations were anomalous? What if the outcome for Vladimir Putin‘s United Russia Party, as disappointing as it was for him, truly represents the will of the Russian people?

A reader named Sergei Burkov, who identifies himself as “ex-head of Google Russia R&D Center” writes in with the following information:

Dear Sirs,

A great Freakonomics story tip:

Russian physicist Sergey Shpilkin managed to statistically analyze the results of the Russian Parliamentary elections, identify fraudulent component, and deduct it, to come up with the estimates of untainted results: Putin’s United Russia got 34%, not 51% as officially reported.

Done the same way as Google identifies (and deducts) fraudulent AdWords clicks and Palantir catches terrorists and money launderers.

I asked Burkov if any of Shpilkin’s findings were in English (the links above are in Russian) — and how the analysis had been done so quickly; the elections were held on Sunday. 

His reply:

No, I don’t think there is an English version yet. He had his software ready. He analyzed past results: when the new results arrived, he just plugged the new numbers in. Raw data is published online in near real time on the website of the official Russian election commission.