Russia holds parliamentary elections later this month, and in one particular race in St. Petersburg, the smart money is on Boris Vishnevsky to win. The reason? No fewer than three Boris Vishnevskys are in the race, reports Reuters. What's more, they all kind of look alike. But this isn't a light-hearted tale of an incredible coincidence. One of the Vishnevskys—we'll call him Vishnevsky I—is a 65-year-old veteran politician who is a Kremlin critic. He points out that his two rivals recently changed their names, and even their physical appearances, and alleges they did so for the sole purpose of confusing voters to get him out of office.
He tweeted a picture of the trio and complained that "this is political fraud without a doubt" in an interview with CNN. "What kind of a person do you have to be to change your name, surname, and also your appearance to please your political boss?" Vishnevsky wonders in his interview with Reuters. Alas, Vishnevskys II and III are not taking the bait and answering publicly. Nor have they made any appearances on the campaign trail.
CNN notes that the tactic of adding identical names to the ballot is a decades-old trick in Russian politics, though the doppleganger twist appears to be new. A Russian election official is sympathetic, calling the strategy a "mockery," but says there's nothing she can do to get Vishnevskys II and III off the ballot. At Slate, Elliot Hannon draws a lesson. "Here’s a reminder that as bad as American politics feel these days, it could always be worse." (Read more Russia stories.)