Vladimir Putin won a 64 percent share of something at Sunday's presidential elections in Russia. Exactly what he won a share of, and to what that should entitle him, may forever remain a mystery.
The Central Election Commission says he won 64 percent of the popular vote. Given the obvious irregularities in the official tally, that seems highly unlikely.
Some regions turned in results that would make the late Kim Jong-il proud. Consider the southern republic of Chechnya, which has suffered widespread human-rights violations under Putin's rule and is currently run by the brutal and Kremlin-loyal Ramzan Kadyrov. The local election commission recorded a turnout of 94.9 percent of registered voters, 99.8 percent of whom it said supported Putin.
Anecdotal evidence of vote-rigging was widespread throughout Russia. The newspaper Vedomosti reported transgressions including ballot-stuffing, machinations with absentee ballots and so-called "carousels," in which the same people vote repeatedly at different polling stations. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found irregularities at nearly one-third of the polling stations they visited.
Web cameras, which the Russian government spent nearly $500 million to install in polling stations across the country, had mixed success. Some were pointed at the floor or never turned on. One camera in the southern republic of Dagestan did record what appeared to be two people stuffing ballot after ballot into electronic voting machines. The official result in Dagestan: 92.8 percent for Putin.
The level of apparent vote-rigging is odd given that Putin could probably have prevailed without it. Perhaps his control over Russia isn’t as great as advertised. Or maybe he simply lacks faith in his ability to win a fair fight. Either way, he can hardly be called the duly elected president of Russia.
(Mark Whitehouse is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)