Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Voter Boycott Unless Carefully Targeted Won’t Hurt Putin, Shpilkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 3 – Sergey Shpilkin, the Moscow physicist who exposed voter fraud in Russia in 2011 (, says that those calling for a boycott of the March presidential elections may produce outcomes very different than they intend unless they target their appeals to different voters than they now appear to be doing.

            On his Facebook page, Shpilkin says this can be seen if one imagines that calls for a boycott will reduce the total number of voters by one percent, but its impact on the percentage Vladimir Putin is likely to get will be less than that in most all cases (арифметика-бойкота/1572944922794138/).

            “In country R, presidential elections are ahead,” the physicist says. “Unregistered candidate N who has spoken against the current president P has called for boycotting the elections. What can come from this?”

            Those responding to such a call are likely to be supporters of N (Navalny) rather than P (Putin). For each one percent of the electorate the boycotters are able to attract to their side, the level of participation will fall by one percent. But that doesn’t mean that this will have the same impact on Putin’s percentages.

            In fact, under most conditions, such a boycott would mean that Putin would get a larger share of the votes actually cast.  That is not something that those organizing this election from the Kremlin will be all that unhappy about, Shpilkin suggests, unless the opposition candidate Navalny could get all of his supporters to stay home.

            For Putin’s percentage to fall, he continues, “the number of P [that is, Putin] supporters boycotting the election as a rule must be more than the number of his opponents who are boycotting the voting.”  And even then the situation is going to be very different in different parts of the country.

            In cities where the population is opposed to P and where support for P and participation are both estimated to be about 40 percent, “a reduction in participation by opponents of P by one percent will lead to a growth in P’s result by one percent, while the reduction in the participation of supporters of P by one percent will lead to a reduction in P’s result by 1.5 percent.

            That means among other things, Shpilkin says, that N must also get those who back the other opposition candidates to boycott as well.

            In agricultural regions where participation and support for P are estimated now at 50 percent in each case, “the effects of non-participation of opponents and supporters of P are equal in size,” and therefore to compensate for the increase in P’s result, one need only “agitate for a boycott of opponents and supporters on a proportion of one to one.”

            In regions where support for P and participation are currently projected to be 60 and 60, in order to compensate for the increased percentage P would receive from a boycott, “it is necessary that among the supporters of P 1.5 times more boycott the voting than do those opposed to him.

            And in regions where the figures are 70 and 70, figures unlikely to be realized in most places, “in order not to increase the percentage of P voters as a result of a boycott, one must for each boycotting opponent of P find two and a half supporters of P to boycott as well,” Shpilkin continues.

            This means, the analyst says, that “a boycott by only the opponents of P will be ineffective from the point of view of the results” and that “agitation for a boycott must be directed fully or in large part at the supporters of P.”  Indeed, Shpilkin says, “it would be better not to call on supports of N to boycott” and to have any boycott call come not from a candidate but rather from non-party groups.

            Otherwise, a boycott is likely to produce results very much the opposite of what those calling for one now hope.

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