MOSCOW — Seven hours into Leonid Volkov’s election-night YouTube marathon, viewers waking up in Russia had been asking who had gained.
“We don’t know,” a bleary-eyed Mr. Volkov stated. “That is what you name an unpredictable election.”
Mr. Volkov is a high aide to Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition chief, and his all-night livestream concerning the American presidential election departed from the Navalny workforce’s typical on-line fare about corrupt oligarchs and native officers trampling democratic rules.
In Russia, the drawn-out aftermath of America’s Election Day has develop into the main target of a home political wrestle in its personal proper, feeding a debate over whether or not Russia’s tightly scripted political panorama has distinctive benefits over American democracy.
To defenders of President Vladimir V. Putin, President Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud have emerged as maybe one of the best proof but that democracy is a recipe for catastrophe.
Mr. Putin’s opponents are countering with their very own narrative: The sheer unpredictability and tinge of chaos surrounding the world’s most consequential election underscore the greatness of a free system.
“Examine this to essentially the most shameful ‘elections’ that Putin and his clique placed on for us,” one other opposition politician, Gennadi V. Gudkov, wrote on Twitter Thursday, “with a end result drawn up upfront by the crooks from the Central Election Fee on orders from the Kremlin!”
The stakes in how Russians interpret the American electoral course of this 12 months are excessive, and Mr. Putin’s allies comprehend it. Professional-democracy activists in Russia and world wide have lengthy apprehensive that turmoil within the West — and Mr. Trump’s undermining of American establishments — might discredit liberal beliefs of their nations.
“All these items, the criticism by Trump, de facto capabilities to justify Russian authoritarianism,” stated Aleksandr V. Kynev, a Russian political scientist. “All of it finds very fertile floor in Russia as a result of we’ve got mass mistrust in our personal elections.”
Russia is a democracy on paper, however Mr. Putin largely eradicated democratic freedoms early in his 20-year rule. The nation nonetheless holds elections, with the opposition candidates usually handpicked by the authorities to offer a facade of selection. Solely in very rare cases do they win.
However many Russians are curious about how democracy can work, and the way a political battle actually seems to be, Mr. Volkov stated, explaining why he undertook his marathon YouTube broadcast. “For us,” he stated, by means of distinction, “it’s an enormous triumph after we handle to register a candidate.”
The Kremlin’s allies, nevertheless, noticed this week’s election as a possibility to solid Western democracy as susceptible to chaos, in distinction to the soundness provided by Mr. Putin.
Margarita Simonyan, the editor of the state-run RT tv community, posted on Twitter Wednesday evening that the American election was “neither free nor honest.” Vladimir Solovyov, a outstanding talk-show host, said the US had “managed to ship a crushing blow towards what belief remained within the process of elections itself.”
Mr. Trump’s contentions of voter fraud allowed the Kremlin’s allies, who’re used to listening to allegations of rigged elections from pro-Western opponents, to mainly flip the tables.
On Russian state tv, anchors and analysts commenting on the American election deployed the identical phrases the Russian opposition routinely makes use of to explain falsified elections at house. There was discuss of “vbrosy,” or poll stuffing, and the usage of “administrative assets,” the widespread follow by rulers throughout the post-Soviet area to make use of the instruments of presidency to win elections and hobble opponents.
“Even when Biden is asserted the winner, Trump could have each motive and talent, together with his infamous administrative assets, to dunk the Democrats within the mud in essentially the most unbelievable manner,” one pro-Kremlin pundit, Aleksei A. Mukhin, opined on the Rossiya-24 state-controlled information channel on Thursday.
The sample of the vote depend in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — with Mr. Trump taking the early lead, adopted by Mr. Biden’s fast positive factors from absentee ballots — led Mr. Putin’s allies to echo the accusations of vote stuffing that the opposition usually makes in Russia and in Belarus.
Mr. Trump’s questioning of the integrity of the vote depend, a ruling-party lawmaker named Oleg V. Morozov thundered on a state TV discuss present Thursday, evoked the current upheaval in one other post-Soviet nation: Kyrgyzstan.
“We’re seeing the Kyrgyzization of the American electoral system,” Mr. Morozov stated. “The principle pillar on which America has at all times relied has been put in query.”
The Kremlin said it would wait for “some form of readability” within the election outcomes earlier than commenting, however the International Ministry leapt on the alternative to criticize the US with the identical form of language that some Russians imagine Washington has lengthy, and wrongly, lectured them with.
“With the opponents for the submit of president operating roughly equal to one another, the apparent faults of the American electoral system develop into clear,” the International Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria V. Zakharova, stated. “That is partially defined by the archaic authorized code and its ambiguity on key issues, as we’ve got stated greater than as soon as.”
However the photos on Russian tv of ballot staff throughout America diligently counting ballots might have instructed their very own story about how a democracy capabilities.
Critics of the Kremlin have subsequent to no skill to make use of the tv airwaves, so some tried to deploy social media to push again on the narrative of election fraud in America. Vladimir Milov, an adviser to Mr. Navalny, wrote on Fb that the depend of American mail-in ballots might be trusted — in contrast to in Russia, the place distant voting is very susceptible to falsification.
“This isn’t Russia, the place they cover ballots in a secure at evening that the election committee chairman has a key to,” Mr. Milov wrote.
Mr. Putin, for his half, gained the suitable to run for 2 extra six-year phrases in a constitutional referendum this summer season that was carefully orchestrated to ship a win for him.
But when Mr. Putin chooses to not run once more, he would lead a privileged existence unavailable even to a post-presidency Mr. Trump, whose firm faces a civil investigation by New York’s legal professional common.
A invoice launched within the Russian Parliament on Thursday would give ex-presidents lifetime immunity from prosecution.
Oleg Matsnev and Sophia Kishkovsky contributed analysis.