Russia to offer iPhones to voters for polling station selfies
Vladimir Putin wants his citizens to head to vote for him with love, or at least heart emojis.
Kremlin officials are preparing to entice voters to participate in a largely perfunctory election this March by offering iPhones and iPads to young people as prizes in a competition for polling station selfies, according to Russian outlet RBK.
The plan, which reportedly runs through regional election commissions and will include a large promotional campaign, is still in its beginning phases ahead of election day, March 18.
Officials hope to get musicians, actors and athletes to pump up the electoral excitement into a “holiday atmosphere,” though it was not immediately clear who would decide the winners.
Putin, who has enjoyed approval ratings of around 80% since a surge around his annexation of Crimea, is expected to claim victory in the election easily.
A woman walks past an electoral poster in Moscow announcing the upcoming Russian presidential election.
(YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, also unlikely to have posed a real threat, has called for a boycott after being barred from running because of a fraud conviction on what he considers politically motivated charges.
Ksenia Sobchak, a television personality known as “Russia’s Paris Hilton” who is the daughter of Putin’s mentor, has also launched a campaign expected to draw at least some support from the more liberal enclaves in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
But the Kremlin has worries about a lack of legitimacy from low turnout, especially among young people who showed an interest in Navalny.
Only 28% of Russians in a December poll from the Levada Center said they will definitely vote, with another 30% saying they likely will.
Justin Timberlake posted a picture from a Tennessee voting booth, despite the fact that doing so is illegal in the state.
Plans to drum up voter turnout also provides a smirking contrast to Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, which the American intelligence community says included an effort to suppress turnout for Hillary Clinton among groups such as black people and Bernie Sanders supporters.
The use of selfies also contrasts with a smattering of local American election laws banning photos in the voting booth, including one for New York City held up by a federal judge last year.
Many people, including President Trump’s son Eric, broadcast their ballots to the world anyway, though it is unlikely they received an iPhone for doing so.