‘My honest word’
On election day, she made sure the observers sat right next to the ballot box. Late at night, they took the results to election offices, where the young man she had encountered earlier and the district schools supervisor awaited. The young man threw the results on his desk.
United Russia had gotten 22.7 percent of the vote in Ivanova’s precinct. Though some St. Petersburg precincts reached the mid-30s, it was not a good day for United Russia, which won just under 50 percent of the vote nationwide.
“Nothing can be done here,” she recalled him saying.
“I decided I wasn’t going to leave things like that,” Ivanova said, taking out a tissue from her purse as her eyes began to water. “But I didn’t know where to go, or whom I should complain about. I didn’t have any proof. I only had my honest word, and now that seems like such a rare thing.”
At the end of December, when higher-ups pressured her principal not to give her an annual bonus, Ivanova quit her job. “I like my principal very much,” Ivanova said. “She was afraid she would be fired.”
After 30 years, she was earning about $900 a month as a teacher and assistant principal. Her 55-year-old friend, the other precinct chairman, quit in support but decided not to go public.
Ivanova went to the newspapers, and soon her story was all over St. Petersburg. Recently, Natalya Nazarova, the district schools supervisor, accused Ivanova of damaging her reputation and asked for $3,700 in damages.
Nazarova, who has declined to speak to the Russian press, could not be reached for comment.
Thirteen school principals in the district wrote an open letter criticizing Ivanova and her fellow precinct chairman.
“The obvious lies of the former teachers prove their unscrupulousness,” the letter said. “There is no doubt that they were paid for their statements. In our opinion their planned interviews with newspapers, Internet resources and TV are examples of dishonest pre-election struggles.”
Reznik, who is head of the education committee in the St. Petersburg City Council, said teachers, who are so dependent on the government and vulnerable to the chain of command, should not be supervising elections.
“What she did was very courageous,” he said. “The more we talk about it, the better.”
The League of Voters, a citizens group formed in January to promote fair elections, has publicized Ivanova’s case and offered her legal assistance.
Andrei Y. Buzin, who supervises election oversight for independent monitor Golos, estimates that 30,000 complaints were made around the country over Dec. 4 violations.
Prosecutors have officially reported opening six criminal cases and 3,000 lower-level administrative suits, he said, but most have probably been dismissed.
“Here’s one example in Moscow,” he said. “A member of the election commission was seen stuffing ballots. Observers saw him. A complaint was filed with the prosecutor’s office. Members of the commission were called in, and they denied it. Case dismissed.”
Friday, the independent Levada Center reported the results of its latest poll: 80 percent of Russians believe Putin will win the election Sunday.
Tatyana Ivanova will be among those voters casting their ballots for Putin. She is a member of United Russia. Putin, she said, has done a good job.
“I still believe in him,” she said.