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Letter to the Saratov Communist Party

The following is a letter from three Saratov observers to a district Communist Party leader.

I am Olga Polezhayeva, 75. In our village [Kalmantai, the Volsky district] Communists have always been ahead, but on March 26 we lost. We, the observers, have been offended, insulted and rudely dismissed from our roles as vote-counting observers.

Alexei Burenin, a representative of [Vladimir] Putin, arrived at our polling station No. 402 on March 26. Before the polling station opened, Burenin asked for our documents.

I told him we had observer IDs from Vladimir Lapin, the Communist Party secretary of the Volsk district.

He said he had an ID provided personally by Putin and said ours were not valid. He laughed at us and started to call for the police, saying, "Throw them out so that there's no spirit of them left in here."

We had to go away and call the district administration. Then someone from the region called Burenin.

After that call, he said, "OK, sit and observe."

After a while he told us, "We are not going to give you the protocol."

We had to run home again and call the district. When we came back, he had softened up a bit and told the director of the House of Culture [where the elections were conducted] to tell us we would get a copy of the protocol.

In the evening when the vote count started, he told us mockingly that we should not sit there but go home, collect our things in suitcases, and leave for good.

During the count, we clearly saw how ballots for Zyuganov were put on the same pile as ballots for Putin.

When we demanded to take a look at the pile, he said, "Those [women] in a brothel will count for you."

When Nina [Taimashova, another observer for Zyuganov] came close to the desk with the ballots, Burenin rudely grabbed her hand and pushed her away.

The representative of our administration, Yelena Yandutova, who was not a member of the election commission, sorted out ballots. All the members of the commission were on [Burenin's] side and supported him.

Burenin mocked me in different ways and made me feel ashamed, saying: "How are you going to look into the eyes of your fellow villagers? All the smart people voted for Putin."

[Some commission members] walked around freely with the ballot box and away from the eyes of observers and other commission members throughout the day.

We know who supports who in our village, and our estimates show that Communists must have collected not less than 190 to 200 votes. But Putin got 363 votes and Zyuganov 43 votes.

This is the result of a fair and democratic election, but there is no smell of democracy here. Tell us, is it a great sin or a shame to vote for Zyuganov? Or was it a crime to mock us the way [Burenin] did?

We are outraged, insulted, humiliated and we demand Burenin to publicly apologize to us for the moral damage done to us. We also want apologies from our administrators Olga Gubanova and Yelena Yandutova and head of the election commission, Sergei Ertulov.

The letter was signed by observers Olga Polezhayeva, Nina Taimashova, 47, and Galina Dokhturkina, 35

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