United Russia

Charles Clover

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on February 26, 2013 (ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images)Allegations of election rigging are nothing new in Russia. But a new study of ballot box fraud has provoked strident denunciations from Kremlin circles – because it has emerged from a corner of the regime least expected.

The study was prepared by a little-known thinktank called the Centre for Analysis of Problems and Public Governance, which concludes that accounting for electoral fraud, the opposition Communist Party should have won the 2011 Duma elections with 30 per cent of the vote, rather than the Kremlin-backed United Russia. UR officially took 49 per cent, but the study says it should have got 22 per cent, according to versions of the report leaked to the press.

The study also concluded that Vladimir Putin would have still won the presidential poll in March, but with 52 per cent rather than 65 percent of the vote.

These conclusions, questioning the legitimacy of the ruling party, and the mandate of Mr Putin, would probably have been stomached had they been raised by an opposition group.

But it turns out the Centre is connected to the solid core of the Kremlin. It’s a right-wing thinktank associated with a branch of Putin’s circle known as the “Orthodox Chekisti” for their links to the Orthodox church and their professional backgrounds in the Soviet era security services (“Chekist” in Russian is slang for spy). The Centre’s scientific director is Vladimir Yakunin, chief of Russia’s state railway monopoly, who owns a country house in the same compound as Putin on Lake Komsomolskoe near St Petersburg. Read more