Putin’s Russia United party set to hold majority after opposition is eliminated
Millions of Russians will vote this weekend in a general election that is expected to bring little political change.
Some 14 parties present candidates for half of the 450 seats in the State Duma in an election that will run until Sunday.
But only four parties are expected to reach the 5% threshold needed to win a seat, and President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party should comfortably hold its majority.
Alleged violations cast a shadow over the count
The vote was marred by allegations of professional misconduct that could cast doubt on the results in some quarters, although United Russia seems certain of winning.
Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Community Party, on Saturday called on the police and the national electoral commission to investigate “a number of absolutely glaring facts”, including allegations of ballot stuffing in some areas.
Zyuganov said his party has documented at least 44 incidents of voting violations and asked for permission to hold protests next week after voting ended on Sunday.
On Saturday, the Znak news site said a resident of the Moscow region offered 1,000 rubles ($ 15) to those who voted for United Russia.
The post said it called the man, who said payment would come if the caller provided proof of his vote through a messaging app.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe did not send observers this year, citing excessive restrictions imposed by Russia.
But Golos, an independent election monitoring group, also reported that sealed envelopes to store the ballot counts were closed and reopened, and lax measures to keep the ballots at the polling station, with a set of papers apparently stored overnight in a cabinet with a broken door.
St. Petersburg media also reported suspected cases of âcarousel voting,â in which voters cast their ballots at several different polling stations.
Elsewhere, one of the leaders of the Yabloko party in St. Petersburg, Boris Lazarevich Vishnevsky, discovered as the polls approached that two other candidates – including one from United Russia – had registered under his own name for the municipal elections. simultaneous. .
The two contestants appeared to have changed their names a few weeks before the election, the 65-year-old said. He added: “Of course, this is only meant to confuse people, into making a mistake … Apparently they see me as a strong rival.”
Votes cast amid apathy and discontent on the streets
Polling stations opened on Friday with surprisingly long lines at some polling stations. Independent media have suggested that this could show state institutions and businesses to vote their employees.
Moscow residents had little political change on Saturday as Russia entered the second day of voting.
âI don’t believe these elections will change anything,â said Olga Pritula, a market exhibitor. “Nothing changes here. Everything stays the same.”
Teacher Elvira Ere said she thought politicians weren’t interested in improving the lives of ordinary people: âThey sell oil, gas and garbage, but the lives of ordinary people don’t change.
The vote comes after mass protests engulfed Russia earlier this year in response to the state’s crackdown on opposition groups, including jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Navalny’s smart voting initiative, which advises Russians on the best way to vote in order to prevent United Russia from winning in their constituency, was taken offline by authorities shortly before the election.
In Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East, a handful of protesters also gather every night to protest the detention of the region’s popular Liberal Democrat Governor Sergei Furgal, who was arrested last year for being implicated. in murders in 2004 and 2005.
Kremlin-appointed replacement for Furgal, Mikhail Degtyaryov, is on the ballot for the regional elections. “Whoever posed the slightest threat was not allowed to come forward, and they left only spoiler candidates,” 64-year-old protester Zigmund Khudyakov said.
Denis Pedish, a 47-year-old education worker who comes to protests with a bag full of essentials in case he is detained, told AP: âWe live in constant fear. It’s difficult.
“But the people have hope and faith, and actively fight the anarchy of the authorities and the anarchy of the elections, which are the laughing stock of the world.”
Polling stations opened yesterday with surprisingly long lines at some polling stations. Independent media have suggested it could show state institutions and businesses forcing employees to vote.
The election is widely seen as an important part of President Vladimir Putin‘s efforts to consolidate his grip on power ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, in which control of the State Duma, or parliament, will be key.
Although polls indicate general approval for the Kremlin-backed United Russia party is low, the party is expected to climb to the overwhelming first place in the new parliament.
Putin strives to consolidate power before 2024
The United Russia party, loyal to Vladimir Putin, will almost definitely retain its grip on the State Duma despite polls indicating that general approval is weak.
But some pollsters believe he could lose his current two-thirds majority, which is needed to change the constitution.
Communists generally support the Kremlin’s initiatives in parliament, but winning seats would be a loss of face for United Russia.
This election is important for Putin because the new lawmakers will still be in office in 2024, when his term will officially expire. It is not yet clear whether he will stand for re-election or look for another way to try to stay in power.
The 68-year-old prime minister still enjoys the strong support of many Russians. Antonina Starikova, 88, from the Siberian village of Desyatovo, said she was voting for the United Russia party “so that everyone is united, so that there is no anger”.
Dozens of people also traveled from separatist-controlled Donetsk to Crimea, which Russia annexed to Ukraine in 2014, to vote in the country.