A veteran Russian politician has complained that two opponents running against him in St. Petersburg have adopted his name and mimicked his appearance in order to confuse voters.
Liberal Yabloko party candidate Boris Vishnevsky is standing to keep his seat in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly later this month. The Russian parliamentary elections are held between September 17-19, during which regions will choose members of the State Duma – the lower house of the Russian Parliament. Several regional and municipal heads will also be elected.
But Vishnevsky has said that two other Boris Vishnevskys are standing against him and have altered their appearance to look more like him, labeling the situation a “scam” in a Twitter post Sunday. Posting a photo of the three of them on the election ballot to Twitter, Vishnevsky called them his “doubles.”
CNN has contacted the two other candidates for comment but has not yet heard back.
“Of course, this is political fraud without a doubt. They seek to confuse citizens so that they take one of the fakes for the original,” Vishnevsky told CNN Tuesday.
Their sole purpose is to get voters to make a mistake and tick the wrong box, the politician is convinced.
“Evidently, there is no other way of preventing me [from winning],” Vishnevsky says, when asked why he thinks this happened.
The list of the candidates for deputies of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg has three Boris Vishnevskys running in the same District No. 2 in St. Petersburg – the Vasileostrovsky election district.
The only difference is their patronymic names – generally derived from the name of a father. In addition to the Yabloko party’s candidate, 65-year-old Vishnevsky Boris Lazarevich, there is Vishnevsky Boris Gennadievich, 43, and Vishnevsky Boris Ivanovich, 59. The last two candidates are running as independents.
For the last two, the electoral commission website gives in brackets their former names: Shmelev Alexey Gennadievich and Bykov Victor Ivanovich. It appears it is only their patronymic names that they decided to keep.
Deputy Chairman of the Yabloko Party, Vishnevsky calls himself an opposition candidate and says Yabloko is the only opposition party taking part in these elections.
“All the other parties are Putin’s parties in different suits,” he says. “They all support Putin’s policy in one way or another.” In St. Petersburg, Vishnevsky is one of the main opponents to the current city’s governor, Alexander Beglov.
“Apparently, my chances to win are estimated as very high, so now they have to resort to these dirty schemes. This speaks of a high assessment of my merits and of the level of my support in town. You know, this is not the way you fight weak candidates,” Vishnevsky told CNN.
The other two Vishnevskys are running independently, but one is linked to the ruling party United Russia and was its deputy for many years. Until recently, the 59-year-old Viktor Bykov – now Boris Ivanovich – was Chief Assistant to Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Sergey Solovyev.
On Monday, Vishnevsky filed an official complaint with the Central Election Committee chairperson, Ella Pamfilova, urging the body to hold an inspection and provide the information about the candidates’ original names right below their new ones on the electoral posters at the territorial electoral commission centers.
Pamfilova called such means of campaigning a “mockery,” but said that the law allows Boris Vishnevsky’s namesakes to run in the elections.
“I think this is just a disgrace, an outrage. This is already the extreme, lowest point of decline for those political strategists who serve their customers. This is just a mockery of the voters,” Pamfilova told Kommersant FM radio station Monday.
According to Pamfilova, the election committee does not have the legal means to dismiss the candidates but would prepare a proposal for new legislators “so that such shameful cases simply do not happen.”
On Tuesday, the St. Petersburg Election Commission, which is separate from the Central Election Commission, dismissed Vishnevsky’s complaint, state news agency TASS reported.
The St. Petersburg Election Commission said that only full namesakes having the same first, last, and patronymic names, are required to indicate their previous names on the ballot paper.
Such a strategy is not unprecedented in Russian election battles.
This method is believed to have been first implemented back in 1998 in the elections to the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg when two people with the same names ran against Sergey Mironov.
Since then, on several occasions, namesakes have run against each other in the same districts in various regions of Russia.
In July, Kommersant newspaper found over 20 pairs of nominees with similar or identical surnames among the candidates for the upcoming elections.
Pamfilova called nomination of candidate doubles by some parties in the September elections “a dirty technology aimed at deceiving and misleading voters,” according to TASS.
“We have already received several complaints and we observe that in a number of regions, unfortunately, a dirty technology of cloning various kinds of doubles is used. We already have statements by party leaders who are outraged,” Pamfilova told the state media in July.