The vote count after Russia’s parliamentary elections is well under way and early results do not unexpectedly show clear leadership for Vladimir Putin’s party.
The three-day election, which began on Friday, is drawing to a close as votes are counted in the vast country, which spans eleven time zones.
After 33 percent of the votes have been counted, the ruling United Russia party currently has 45 percent support, while the Communist Party reaches 22 percent, according to the country’s electoral commission.
The election is seen as a key part of Putin’s plan to consolidate his grip on power ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, in which a majority in the Duma is essential.
In the last elections of 2016, United Russia received 54 percent of the votes, while the Communist Party received 13 percent.
Election victory celebrated
The nationalist LDPR has received 8.5 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results, and A Just Russia, 7 percent. Both parties are loyal to the current political system.
The United Russia match was already celebrating when the first results came in on Sunday night. People in the rainy streets of Moscow were shouting “We are Putin’s team”, while the party leadership announced that Putin would remain in power, reports the DPA news agency.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobjanin says the election result is cause for celebration. It is true that President Putin was not at the party’s vigil in the capital. He is isolated after being in contact with several corona-infected people, but he is fine, the party claims.
– Mindless choice
In theory, all 450 seats in the Duma, the lower house of the National Assembly, are at stake. However, the ruling United Russia party was expected to emerge victorious beforehand.
The Kremlin has eliminated many of its rivals before the elections. Opposition groups have been jailed, arrested or simply refused to come forward.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have not been present due to disagreement over the terms set by Russia. Russia also wanted to allow only a small number of observers.
The general perception among Russians is that elections are meaningless, says political scientist Andrei Kolesnikov at the Carnegie Center in Moscow. He believes that the Kremlin will continue to tighten its grip and does not believe that there will be any major demonstrations against the outcome of the elections.
– People are simply too demoralized, says the political scientist.
The Electoral Commission has received at least 750 complaints for various irregularities related to voting, the country’s Interior Ministry reported on Sunday.
This is in stark contrast to the independent voting organization Golos, which says they have uncovered thousands of irregularities, which they believe they can prove with both photos and videos.
The organization has shared a series of videos showing hundreds of uniformed workers and what appear to be employees of various state-owned companies collectively arriving at polling stations in various parts of the country.
They have also released movies and images of what will be ballot boxes that are filled with complete ballot packages. There have also been several complaints that polling station surveillance cameras are not working. These cameras must be placed everywhere to prevent voter fraud.
Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny tried to promote the “Vote Smart” strategy and app. The app advised voters to rally behind candidates in the 225 one-man constituencies believed to have the best chance of beating some of the elected representatives of the ruling party.
Leonid Volkov, a key supporter of Navalny’s exile, recently wrote on Telegram that a vote for a “Vote Smart” candidate would effectively be a vote for Navalny. The opposition leader himself has been unable to receive messages from the concentration camp east of Moscow, where he is currently detained.
It was not clear how much of an effect the “Vote Smart” strategy would have, but it has previously helped drive some candidates out of the ruling party in local elections. Many of the candidates proposed in the application belong to the Communist Party.