One Boris Vichnevski against two Boris Vichnevski. The same name, the same beard and the same haircut: a Russian opponent discovered that two contestants in a regional election scheduled for September 19 looked strangely like him, a subterfuge of power aimed, he said, at disrupting voters. Candidate for the St. Petersburg Parliamentary election, Boris Vishnevsky, a well-known activist of the small opposition party Iabloko, will be up against two other Boris Vishnevsky who, like him, have a short pepper and salt beard and baldness.
“It’s fraud. These people participate in the election not to be elected or to present their programs but to confuse voters, ”said the 65-year-old opponent on Monday. He says he learned of the existence of these “lookalikes” after receiving the mock-up of a future official election poster on Sunday. This shows the identity photos of the three candidates side by side. And the resemblance is striking.
Russia. An opponent confronted with two “look-alike” candidates in a regional election #DauphineFree https://t.co/TPJ3vZXHhw
– The Dauphiné Libéré #dauphinelibere (@ledauphine) September 6, 2021
A complaint to the Election Commission
According to the opponent, these two namesakes would even have specially changed their name and appearance to confront him, and had their photo retouched to accentuate the resemblance on the posters. “I was somewhat familiar with one of these namesakes. This is Viktor Bykov, member of the United Russia party (in power). Before becoming Boris Vishnevski, he did not have a beard, we can find his photo on the party’s website, ”he says. According to an investigation by the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the second man, a certain Alexeï Shmelev, also changed his name for the election.
Contacted Monday, the first alleged double and the local United Russia branch did not respond to requests for comment. The second namesake was unreachable. Asked Monday on the subject on the air of the radio Kommersant FM, the director of the Russian Electoral Commission, Ella Pamfilova, declared to condemn these practices. “It’s making fun of voters,” she observed, while noting that it was not illegal under the current state of the law.
On Twitter, the opponent Boris Vishnevsky nevertheless announced that he had sent a complaint to the Election Commission to verify the legality of the maneuver and to clearly indicate the old names of his “look-alikes” in its official documentation. During previous elections, the opposition had already denounced the presence of “homonymous” candidates seeking, according to it, to parasitize its candidacies. She also complained about the creation of political movements created for the occasion in order to divide the protest vote.
The ballot for the renewal of the regional parliament of Saint Petersburg will take place from September 17 to 19, at the same time as the legislative elections. Between economic stagnation and corruption scandals, the Kremlin United Russia party collects, according to the polling institute close to the Vtsiom authorities, only 27.3% of favorable opinions. He should nevertheless win without difficulty, the critical voices of the Kremlin, who could have benefited from the discontent, having been subjected to an unprecedented campaign of police and judicial pressure in the run-up to the elections. The authorities declared in particular “extremist” and dismantled the movement of the imprisoned opponent Alexeï Navalny.