Russia’s ruling Kremlin-aligned party is expected to retain its dominant hold over the country’s parliament after elections that opposition groups and independent observers said were deeply marred by violations of the right to vote and repression of the dissent.
With one-fifth of the votes counted, United Russia had 43.2 percent, ahead of the Communists with 22.9 percent and the nationalist LDPR with 8.7 percent. Both opposition parties support almost all of President Vladimir Putin’s proposals, but analysts have said the Communists could offer more resistance to the Kremlin if their expected gains in parliament are confirmed.
Candidates linked to jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny have been excluded from the elections after Russia blacklisted its anti-corruption organization as “extremist”, and dozens of independent media, journalists and groups of civil society have been labeled “foreign agents” for allegedly receiving funds from abroad. .
Google and Apple gave in to Russian pressure on Friday to block Mr Navalny’s ‘smart voting’ app, which has helped people vote tactically by identifying opposition candidates with the best chance of beating their rivals of United Russia.
However, opposition figures have always benefited from being candidates for the ‘smart vote’, including Moscow State University (MGU) math professor Mikhail Lobanov, who ran on the Communist ticket in the capital against United Russia candidate Yevgeny Popov, a fiercely pro-Kremlin presenter on state television.
âWe are certainly not voting for United Russia. Power should change hands, âsaid Marina, a resident of the Ramenki neighborhood near the famous MGU.
“We have lived in the Soviet Union and know what it is like to live under one party … for so long,” she said, referring to Mr Third Majority’s 21-year rule. in the last legislature.
“We know they tried to block the smart vote, but a friend kept us informed of the best candidate to vote against United Russia,” she added.
Marina and her husband, Ilgvar, who refused to give their last name, said they did not like the Communist Party but would vote for Mr Lobanov nonetheless (37).
He describes himself as a democratic socialist and cites former British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn and American politician Bernie Sanders as inspirations. He is not a member of the Communist Party but says the only way to beat United Russia is to work with his main rival.
“The most important things we need [in Russia] are for the power to change hands, and reform of the judiciary. Ilgvar has had legal problems recently and we never thought the system could be so bad, âsaid Marina.
“And all of this we hear that Russia is threatened by other countries – this is nonsense,” Ilgvar added. âWe have been abroad a lot and we know this is not true.
Many others in Moscow are happy with Mr. Putin and United Russia, however, crediting them with bringing the stability and long-term economic growth they see reflected in the modernization of the capital and its services. – even if disposable income has declined in recent years and prices are rising.
âIn the 90s we had more freedom, but there were also so many problems. Now things are stricter, but they are also more orderly. A lot has improved a lot, âsaid Natalya, a doctor who has lived in Ramenki all her life.
âMy relatives and I have all decided to vote for United Russia today. And we think Popov well – he presents himself well on TV. ”
Fyodor (40), who works for the Russian Post, said he saw “no alternative” to the rule of United Russia.
âI moved here from Norilsk [in the Russian Arctic] 20 years ago, and things are so much better now. Of course, there are still problems, but I have seen a lot of countries, so I know how well Moscow is doing, âhe added.
âWhat we need is stability and economic development. And we don’t need what you see in some places in Europe: if you go to Amsterdam you see garbage everywhere and gay culture. I have three sons and I don’t want that here.
Opposition figures and independent election observers said they had received numerous reports of electoral fraud and attempts to obstruct the work of election observers, and warned that authorities could use the results of non-transparent electronic voting to “correct” unfavorable results on a large scale. .
Russia’s Central Election Commission, however, reported relatively few irregularities.