MOSCOW (AP) – Russia’s ruling Kremlin-backed party appears on track to retain the two-thirds majority in parliament that allows it to amend the constitution, results from 90 percent of polling stations in the country showed Monday morning. country.
The election is widely seen as an important part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to consolidate his grip on power ahead of the 2024 presidential election, in which control of the State Duma, or parliament, will be the key.
The results of about 90% of polling stations nationwide gave the ruling United Russia party 49.65% of the vote for the 225 seats distributed by party lists, according to the Central Election Commission. Another 225 lawmakers will be chosen by individual races, and Monday morning’s results showed United Russia’s candidates leading in 196 of those single-constituency constituencies.
Senior United Russia official Andrei Turchak suggested on Monday that the party would win 315 of the 450 seats.
The results showed that three other parties almost always support Putin’s return to the State Duma, as well as the New People Party, which was formed last year and is seen by many as a Kremlin-sponsored project.
Few opposition candidates have been allowed to run for parliament this year after Russian authorities launched a sweeping crackdown on Kremlin critics.
Organizations linked to jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny have been declared extremists, and anyone associated with them has been barred from running for public office by a new law. Other opposition politicians have been prosecuted or have been forced to leave the country under pressure from the authorities.
Navalny’s team still hoped to start the dominance of United Russia with their smart voting strategy – they promoted candidates who had the best chance of defeating those backed by the Kremlin. However, a massive effort by authorities to remove the use of smart voting has been underway in recent weeks.
The government has blocked the Smart Voting website and is pressuring Apple and Google to remove an app featuring it from their Russian online stores. YouTube has also blocked several videos listing candidates approved by Smart Voting, and founder of Russian messaging app Telegram Pavel Durov on Saturday blocked a Smart Voting chat bot set up by Navalny allies.
The vote was also marred by numerous reports of violations, including ballot stuffing, with some Kremlin critics claiming there were as many violations as in 2011, when reports of mass rigging during legislative elections sparked months of anti-government and anti-Putin protests.
This year’s election was extended to three days, and in seven Russian regions voters were able to vote online. Officials cited coronavirus concerns and efforts to reduce turnout during a pandemic, but election observers said the measures left room for manipulation of the results.
Fears of manipulation rose on Monday morning, as the results of the online vote in Moscow – where approvals from the ruling party have always been particularly weak and the protest vote has been widespread – have still not been made public. Results in the other six regions have been published.
Almost 2 million votes were cast online in Moscow. “Where are the results of the online vote (in Moscow)? Navalny’s close ally Lyubov Sobol wrote on Facebook. “They’re not releasing them in order to rig more votes for the United Russia candidates?”
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