Kremlin Support Party Leads in Russian Parliamentary Election

The Kremlin’s ruling United Russia party claims to have won a two-thirds super-majority in Russia’s lower house of parliament, after a three-day vote that the rising opposition says has been marred by irregularities and tampering with ballots.

The election is widely regarded as a key part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cement his grip on power, ahead of the 2021 presidential election when he may run for re-election, taking control of the key assembly in the State Duma (the lower house of parliament).

The vote was also marred by a significant lack of opposition participation, after authorities declared organizations linked to jailed opposition figure Aleksei Navalny to be “extremists”, practically barring anyone from his network from running.

While claiming a majority in the Duma, United Russia Secretary General Andrey Turchak told supporters at party headquarters that the victory was “honest and clean.”

Members of the local election commission empty ballot boxes at a polling station after the last day of the three-day parliamentary election, in Moscow, on September 19, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Members of the local election commission empty ballot boxes at a polling station after the last day of the three-day parliamentary election, in Moscow, on September 19, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

For the first time since 1993, election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were absent due to restrictions imposed by Russian authorities.

Observers watch a live broadcast from polling stations at the Moscow Election Monitoring Center on the second day of voting in parliamentary elections in Moscow, Russia. September 18, 2021. (REUTERS)
With 90 percent of the ballots counted, the Central Election Commission said Monday morning that United Russia, which supports President Vladimir Putin, had won just over 49.66 percent of the vote for the new Duma (parliament).

Its closest competitor, the Communist Party, won 19.56 percent and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party received about 7.51 percent. The other two parties, A Just Russia (Fair Russia), and the newcomer party, New People, received 7.38 percent and 5.33 percent of the vote, respectively.

While claiming a majority in the Duma, United Russia Secretary General Andrey Turchak told supporters at party headquarters that the victory was “honest and clean.”

On Monday morning (20/9), Turchak said United Russia was expected to win 120 seats from elections under the proportional party system and 195 district system elections, earning him 315 of the 450 seats in the Duma and a two-thirds majority that would continue to allow him to amend the constitution.

The results of the online vote in Moscow, which has a population of 12 million people, have not yet been counted.

One of Navalny’s top aides, Leonid Volkov, stated that authorities planned to manipulate online voting in favor of ruling party candidates, particularly in liberal cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The Central Election Commission said it would publish election results in Moscow on Monday evening.

Boris Vishnevsky, 65, a member of the liberal Yabloko party who is running for re-election to the regional parliament in Saint Petersburg, votes on the last day of the three-day parliamentary and local elections on September 19, 2021 (Photo: AFP)

Boris Vishnevsky, 65, a member of the liberal Yabloko party who is running for re-election to the regional parliament in Saint Petersburg, votes on the last day of the three-day parliamentary and local elections on September 19, 2021 (Photo: AFP)

Half of the 450 seats in the Duma are divided on a proportional basis, while the rest are elected on an individual basis. Election officials say United Russia candidates lead with 193 of the 225 district seats, with just over 72 percent of the vote counted.

United Russia, which now controls 334 of the 450 seats in the Duma, is seeking to maintain a super-majority in parliament, allowing it to amend the constitution. But the party is highly unpopular, and surveys from independent pollsters have shown the lowest level of support in the two decades since the party was founded.

In the 2016 national elections, United Russia won just over 54 percent of the vote.

Apathy is a major concern for the authorities, as Russian voters grow increasingly cynical about the country’s free and fair elections. The voter turnout this time was around 45 percent, said the Central Election Commission.

Apart from being a test for United Russia, the three-day election is also a major hurdle for Navalny, the imprisoned anti-corruption activist. Navalny’s allies are deeply committed to their Smart Voting strategy, which aims to erode United Russia’s grip on politics. [uh/lt]

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