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6 Sep, 2021 15:41

Yes three can! Russian opposition candidate cries foul as duo with same name & appearance run for his St. Petersburg council seat

Yes three can! Russian opposition candidate cries foul as duo with same name & appearance run for his St. Petersburg council seat

A liberal political candidate in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city, has taken to Twitter to complain after two other people with his name and similar appearance turned up on the ballot to try and take his local council seat.

Boris Vishnevsky, the leader of the opposition Yabloko party in the city’s Legislative Assembly, has held his seat since 2011. In July, ahead of upcoming elections later this month, he cried foul after noticing two ‘spoiler candidates’, both of whom share his name to confuse those wishing to re-elect him. Now, their pictures have been published, and they look uncannily similar to the incumbent.

Posting on his Twitter account on Sunday, the original Boris Vishnevsky accused two men of changing their names and growing facial hair to confuse the electorate, which could potentially lead to the veteran Saint Petersburg politician losing his seat. The photos of the men hang in the polling station to aid voters.

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The easiest way to tell the difference between the three is their patronymics, all of which are different.

“My doubles … having changed their first and last name, have now changed their appearance,” he wrote. “They’ve grown beards and mustaches, and I think they’ve gotten some touch-ups as well.”

Both his doppelgangers recently changed their names – one from Viktor Bykov, and the other Aleksey Shmelev.

In July, when his opponents were revealed, he told Saint Petersburg newspaper Fontanka that the ‘spoiler candidates’ are a “high assessment” of his merits.

“I will explain where the real one is and where the fakes are,” he said.

On Monday, following Vishnevsky’s complaints, Central Election Commission chairwoman Ella Pamfilova told radio station Kommersant FM that the rules should be changed to avoid a similar situation happening again.

“I think it’s just a disgrace, an outrage,” Pamfilova said. “It makes a mockery of the voters.”

“I believe that at the end of the campaign … we will prepare a proposal for new legislators so that such shameful cases simply cannot exist again,” she concluded.

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This tactic has long existed within Russian politics, including in Saint Petersburg. In 2015, the same tactic was famously used against veteran politician Oksana Dmitrieva, head of the Party of Growth in the city’s Legislative Assembly. Dmitrieva received 31,000 votes, and two spoiler candidates combined received almost 9,000. United Russia’s Mikhail Romanov won with 40,834.

Similar tactics have also been seen in other post-Soviet nations, such as Ukraine. In the 2019 presidential election, spoiler candidate Yuriy Timoshenko, a relatively unknown lawmaker, entered the election to hinder the chances of his namesake Yulia Timoshenko, one of the election’s most high-profile candidates.

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