Putin’s United Russia party prepares to retain majority as parliamentary elections conclude
President Vladimir Putin’s party was to retain a majority in parliament when Russia concluded a three-day election on Sunday in which most of the Kremlin’s critics were unable to stand.
The vote comes in the wake of an unprecedented crackdown on the opposition this year, with Russian authorities jailing Putin’s best-known national enemy, Alexei Navalny, and banning his organizations as “extremists.”
In the run-up to this weekend’s vote, all of their top allies were arrested or had fled the country, and anyone associated with their groups was prevented from showing up at the parliamentary and local polls scheduled to close at 8:00 a.m. pm in each of the Russian elections. 11 time zones. Polling stations in the Kaliningrad enclave will be the last to close at 1800 GMT.
“There is no one to vote for,” Andrei, a 33-year-old IT professional who declined to give his last name, told AFP in Moscow.
But he cast his vote in the “mock” elections, he said, to “at least show some kind of protest against the current government.”
When voting began on Friday, Apple and Google caused an uproar among Russia’s opposition after they removed Navalny’s “Smart Voting” app, which advised supporters which candidate they should back to unseat Kremlin-aligned politicians. .
Sources familiar with the decision by Google and Apple told AFP that the move was taken under pressure from Russian authorities, including threats to arrest local staff of the tech giants.
By late Friday, the popular Telegram messenger had also removed Navalny’s “Smart Voting” bot, and by Sunday Google Docs and YouTube videos containing lists of recommended candidates had also been blocked.
Navalny’s allies said Google had complied with demands made by Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor, and Leonid Volkov described the US tech giants as “yielded to Kremlin blackmail.”
But Navalny’s team quickly made new Google Docs and YouTube videos of the candidate lists, and in a final speech to voters from behind bars, the Kremlin critic wrote on Instagram: “Today is a day where your voice really matters. ”
Turnout was 40 percent on Sunday afternoon, according to Russia’s electoral commission.
Meanwhile, Russian social media was inundated with reports of ballot filling and military patrolling polling stations.
Critics also noted that online voting, new limits for independent poll watchers, and elections spanning three days present opportunities for mass voting fraud.
>> Putin’s United Russia party is more unpopular than ever before the parliamentary elections
No one to trust more than Putin
As of Sunday afternoon, independent election supervisor Golos, who authorities called a “foreign agent” before the polls, had tracked down about 4,000 reports of voting violations.
Elections chief Ella Pamfilova said her commission had received 137 reports of “coercion” in voting and had confirmed eight cases of ballot filling, with three polling station bosses fired as a result.
Pamfilova also said the commission’s website was under “powerful” cyber attacks, adding that most came from the United States and Germany.
Going into the lower house state Duma vote, Putin’s United Russia party was hitting all-time lows.
Polls by state pollster VTsIOM showed that less than 30 percent of Russians plan to vote for the party, at least 10 percentage points before the last parliamentary elections in 2016.
While 68-year-old Putin remains popular, United Russia has seen its support drop as living standards decline after years of economic stagnation.
But the ruling party is expected to retain its two-thirds majority in the lower house, allowing it to push through legislative changes without resistance.
In addition to United Russia, 13 more parties are running for office. However, they are seen as a token opposition that carries out the Kremlin’s orders.
Anna Kartashova, a 50-year-old manager of a pharmaceutical company in Moscow, said she voted for United Russia because she “just trusts” Putin.
“We just don’t see anyone else we can trust in the current political landscape,” he said.