London, Apr.18 : Up to a third of votes cast for Dmitri Medvedev to be Russia's next President may have been rigged, a comprehensive new study of the election results has found.
According to The Times, millions of votes for the Kremlin's favoured candidate were the product of mass fraud or the use of "administrative resources" by government officials to pressure state employees into supporting Medvedev, the study states.
The results inflated Medvedev's margin of victory and the overall turnout, making it appear that he enjoyed massive popular support as Vladimir Putin's chosen successor.
Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist, exposed the scale of manipulation. The computer programmer concluded that 14.8 million of the 52.5 million votes cast for Medvedev could not be explained in any other way.
He also calculated that only 56 per cent of Russians had voted, instead of the 69.7 per cent officially declared by the Central Election Commission (CEC).
"It is a combination of fraud and administrative resources and it is difficult to distinguish between them," Shpilkin claimed.
Medvedev won 70.3 per cent officially, but Shpilkin calculated that it was just under 63 per cent once "abnormal" voting was discounted.
On a reduced turnout, this meant that only a third of Russia's 100 million voters supported Medvedev, far from the overwhelming endorsement claimed by the Kremlin.
Shpilkin analysed the ballot returns from electoral commissions throughout Russia, published on the CEC website. He presented his research at a seminar on Wednesday organised by the Carnegie Centre in Moscow.
Shpilkin found that Medvedev's support appeared normal until it reached 60 per cent, then continued to hit a series of sharp spikes instead of sloping down.
The spikes matched percentages ending in five or zero, showing that disproportionate numbers of polling stations had reported these results.
Sergei Shulgin, an election analyst at the Institute for Applied Economics, said the anomalies showed that local officials had tried to impress their superiors by "improving the results". The Chief Election Commissioner has rejected any criticism of the conduct of the election.