Russian State Companies Force Employees To Vote In Presidential Election

March 13, 2018

In an attempt to ensure the election’s legitimacy, state-owned companies and regional authorities have been accused of compelling workers to vote; a blatant violation of Russian law.

Workers stand next to a logo of Russia’s Rosneft oil company at the central processing facility of the Rosneft-owned Priobskoye oil field outside the West Siberian city of Nefteyugansk, Russia, August 4, 2016. Picture taken August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin – RTSMPX7

Claims of forced signature gathering in favour of Putin and strenuous attempts by state-owned companies to ensure that their workforce cast their ballots have pervaded the capital and Russian regions.

MBK.Media reports that high-ranking employees of state-owned companies in Russia’s Yaroslavl region have been ordered to monitor the turnout of their subordinates on election day. In a document sent to all state-owned companies, employers are told to keep a watchful eye on their employees and “remind them of the necessity of going to the polling station to vote.”

The news outlet elaborates that employees will be emailed hourly spreadsheets on election day indicating the names and voter registration numbers of their employees. The employer is then asked to mark down those who have voted, and those who have not. They must then consistently remind the latter group of the “need to vote” before polling stations close at 8pm.

These reports have been corroborated by the BBC Russian Service, citing sources within oil giant “Rosneft”. According to unnamed employees, “Rosneft” and its subsidiaries in Siberia have repeatedly stressed that workers must vote in the election, be it for Putin or another candidate.

The companies in question have denied the illegality of their actions. They claim that there is no punishment for refusal to vote. Workers, however, may think differently given that employers will be aware of their lack of participation, and do not want to risk becoming the target of increased pressure.

Russian law forbids companies from actively compelling employees to vote, but Andrey Sudakov, head of Rosneft’s HR Department in Khanti-Mansi, asserted that the company was merely reminding Russians of their civic duty. In this way, state-owned companies can dubiously operate within legal constraints. Nonetheless, such behaviour falls well outside of employer-employee labour agreements which envisage voluntary participation in elections.

State-owned industrial enterprises are referenced as the most common source of voting coercion. Gazprom’s regional branch in Kaluga, for instance, has been blighted by accusations that it will force workers and their families to vote on one site in the village of Mstikhino, irrespective of residency permits. One of the branch’s main engineers reportedly took up a position on the regional electoral commission to facilitate this.

Such manipulation to raise electoral turnout is not uncommon. News outlet Dozhd affirms that AvtoVAZ, a state-owned car manufacturer, has organised temporary polling stations at its petrochemical plant and oil-refining factory in Novokuybyshevsk, deeming it necessary because of its ‘continuous working timetable’. Accordingly, workers will not have to leave work in order to cast their ballot.

Accusations of voter coercion do not end with state-owned business enterprises.  Fontanka.ru reports that all subordinates of St. Petersburg’s youth policy committee are being forced to work tirelessly collecting signatures in support of Putin’s candidature. They have been ordered to collect the necessary signatures outside shopping centres and public areas while in their work uniforms.

Such legally dubious policy was echoed in the Saratov region, where doctors have reportedly been forced to collect signatures in support of Putin at their medical institutions.

There is little doubt that Vladimir Putin will be reassigned to the presidency for a further 6 years this Sunday, but the desire for a high turnout means that the Kremlin will leave no stone unturned in its desperate search for votes.

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