Alexey Navalny’s team not only asked fellow Russians to boycott last Sunday’s farcical election but also invited volunteers to monitor the vote. About sixty thousand volunteered and more than 33,000 were posted at precincts across the country. Even if most observers worked in groups, this is a large enough number relative to the total number of precincts (about 95,000) to produce a reliable estimate of the turnout. Navalny’s statisticians have estimated the turnout at 59.6%, based on their estimate of 55% going to the polls plus 4.6% reported by the election officials as having voted at home (such as elderly and disabled voters). This is almost eight percentage points below the officially reported turnout of 67.5%.
To judge by the official numbers – a turnout of 67% and 77% for Putin – the Kremlin has set a new record: over half of all eligible Russian citizens voted for Putin. (A plebiscite of sorts.) Before the 2018 election, the highest result was not Putin’s but Dmitry Medvedev’s: in 2008, he won 70% of the vote with a 70% turnout and was therefore elected by 49% of all eligible voters. However, using Navalny’s 60% turnout estimate for 2018 would give Putin only 44% of the electorate, which is still better than his official result in 2012 (42%), but not as good as his 2004 performance (46%), to say nothing of Medvedev’s 2008 feat. On the other hand, previous results might have been similarly inflated, and it is possible that Putin did improve, after all, on his best past result, even though he didn’t quite manage to get a 50%+ majority of all voters.
Update 03/20/18. In an op-ed in Vedomosti this morning, Grigory Yudin notes that early estimates based on Sergei Shpilkin‘s statistical approach show the actual turnout at 10 p.p. below the official 67%. Yudin believes the discrepancy is a little less; he estimates Putin’s share of the eligible votes at 43-48%.