Pro-Putin party heads for Russian election win after Navalny clampdown
A bus drives past a United Russia campaign poster put up ahead of the elections to the Russian State Duma of the 8th convocation scheduled for September 17-19.
Vladimir Smirnov | TASS | Getty Images
Russians vote on Sunday in the final stretch of a three-day parliamentary election that the ruling party is expected to win after a sweeping crackdown that crushed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s movement and barred opponents from the ballot.
Kremlin is expected to use the win of United Russia Party as evidence of its support for Vladimir Putin in spite of years of low living standards.
State pollsters indicate that the party supporting Russia’s 68 years old leader has suffered a decline in popularity, however, they still have more support than their closest competitors on the ballot: the Communist Party, and the nationalist LDPR party. Both of these parties often support the Kremlin.
The State Duma has 450 seats, and nearly 35% of them are owned by United Russia. The Kremlin’s dominance in the last year allowed them to pass constitution reforms which allow Putin to run two terms for President after 2024. This could potentially keep him in power until 2036.
On Navalny’s blog, a message was posted to supporters this week: “If United Russia wins (to win), then our country can expect an additional five years poverty, five year of repressions and five lost years.”
His movement, which he called an extremist in June was barred from Navalny’s supporters. Others in opposition claim they were either not permitted to run or targeted by dirty tricks campaigns.
To confuse his voters, a Communist strawberry tycoon claimed he was barred. However, a St Petersburg liberal opposition politician claims that two identically named “spoiler candidates” are running for him.
The Kremlin denies a politically-driven crackdown and says individuals are prosecuted for breaking the law. It and United Russia both deny having any involvement in the process of registering candidates.
Navalny’s group is encouraging a tactic vote against United Russia. Authorities want to prevent it from being posted online. Google, Apple, and Telegram messenger restricted some access to this campaign since Friday’s voting. The activists accuse them, however, of yielding to the pressure.
The elections will continue until Sunday at 1800 GMT, when the polling stations in Kaliningrad’s European exclave close. This is the final national vote prior to the 2024 presidential elections. Putin will turn 69 next month. He hasn’t yet said whether he would run.
Navalny, who ran a tactical voting campaign in Moscow to encourage his followers to vote for the Communist Party’s Mikhail Lobanov. He said that he supported the Navalny campaign, and criticised United Russia.
Lobanov stated that people see the inequalities and feel the consequences of economic policies and the rise of repression. They then respond to this dissatisfaction with their anger.
Three people claimed they voted United Russia at a Lobanov district polling station. Two of the three also said that they had voted Communist.
Anatoly, an elderly man from Moscow who chose not to be identified as such, said he voted for United Russia due to Russia’s aggressive foreign policy and Putin’s attempt at restoring what he believes is Russia’s rightful status as great power.
“Countries like the United States and Britain more or less respect us now like they respected the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 70s… The Anglo-Saxons only understand the language of force,” he said.
Another polling station was set up in Moscow, capital city of over 12.5million. It is here that United Russia fared less well in recent years than it has in other regions.
“I am always against United Russia. Roman Malakhov, who voted Communist, stated that “they haven’t done anything positive.”
Along with elections for local governors, the vote will be held. As a COVID-19 precaution, it is spread over three days.