Russian shadow over American mid-term polls
By Deepak Parvatiyar &
Republicans seemingly have an edge in US mid-term polls
Russia casts its shadow over the American mid-term polls getting well underway today. The United States President Joe Biden is facing a trial by fire with the doors being thrown open for former President Donald Trump to attempt staging a comeback.
A Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin made an “admission” in Russia that Russians have interfered, and they will continue to interfere, in US elections. He further went on to say that Russian attempts to interfere in US polls were surgical in nature and due care was taken to affect accurate results as per their calculations. Prigozhin posted his remarks on the Russian social media platform to the effect.
The angry United States responded stating that Prigozhin’s statements didn’t tell anything that Washington didn’t already know. “His bold confession, if anything, appears to be just a manifestation of the impunity that crooks and cronies enjoy under President [Vladimir] Putin and the Kremlin,” the United States Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said in Washington today (IST).
Prigozhin was sanctioned by the US in March 2018 for his interference with the US election processes and institutions. On September 20, 2019, the US Department of the Treasury had again taken action against the previously designated Prigozhin as well as the employees of the Internet Research Agency (IRA) which Prigozhin himself finances, along with other Russian actors that attempted to influence the 2018 midterm US elections then. This year in July, the US put forward a ‘Reward for Justice’, seeking information on interference in US elections by the Internet Research Agency, Prigozhin, and related Russian entities, offering up to $10 million for information on foreign interference in US elections.
Moreover, in addition to the sanctions against Prigozhin, and against the IRA, the US administration announced sanctions against Russia in April 2021 in response not only to Russia’s “malicious” cyberattack, in the context of Solar Winds and also in response to its interference in the US Presidential elections.
“We won’t tolerate interference in our elections regardless of where it comes from. We’ve demonstrated that – not only with our words but with our deeds,” Price said. He demanded the Russian Federation act against Prigozhin “who so openly boasts about interfering in the elections of a sovereign country. Of course, we would expect that of a responsible law enforcement system of a responsible government; but of course, we know better than to expect that of Russia”.
The US State Department also pointed to Russia’s previous interference in the US elections, and claimed it was approved at the “highest levels of the Kremlin”. Interestingly the US has sanctioned even Russian President Putin “for the actions he’s taken in recent months”. Price further warned that “we will respond decisively to any country, to any entity, to any individual that seeks to interfere in our elections”.
Meanwhile, the mid-term elections for both the Senate and the lower house, are underway today. While the Republicans bank on spiralling inflation and an increase in the crime rate to provide them with anti-incumbency support, President Biden hopes to receive the proverbial pat on the back for claiming to be performing better on the job markets front.
The outcome of the mid-term polls will be crucial for Biden when it comes to the Democrats being able to secure sufficient numbers in the bills pertaining to abortion rights as well as climate change policies. Besides, it will also be a difficult turf for filling up vacancies in the apex court if the Democrats lose the numbers game in this mid-term poll. Former President Donald Trump is eying this opportunity for effecting a change of guard in the White House.
The US House of Representatives (lower house) has 435 seats all of which will be contested in the mid-term polls. Besides, 35 seats will be contested for the Senate elections. The worrying part for the Democrats is psephologists and opinion polls alike favouring a clear mandate in favour of the Republicans in the ongoing poll fray. However, the prospects of close neck-to-neck battles taking place in various constituencies hold a chance to turn into a game changer.
The picture is expected to get clearer after the ballots by mail and in-person votes cast get counted in phases. Amidst grim prospects for Biden losing ground and consequently the sway Democrats hold in the two houses, there was also a rising cry of dissatisfaction from voters owing to the steep price rise. There was also much speculation doing the rounds on how long it could take for the final results to be out after the completion of all counting. The air of uncertainty seems to have been triggered by the way Trump approached the judiciary even after clearly losing his mandate two years ago.
End of Monday (November 7), upward of more than 40 million Americans had exercised their early voting option, totalling both by in-person and mail. The early voting option was provided to the electorate for mitigation from long queues on voting day and increased voter participation since 2020. The Republicans were not very happy with this arrangement and have kept raising technical objections on this count.