Communists, observers report violations in Russian elections
MOSCOW (AP) – The leader of the Russian Communist Party, the country’s second-largest political party, alleges widespread violations during the election of a new national parliament in which his party is expected to largely win seats.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said on Saturday – the second of three voting days in the elections – that the police and the National Election Commission must respond to reports of “a number of absolutely glaring facts”, including ballot box stuffing in several regions.
Election observation movement Golos and independent media also reported violations, including vote buying and lax measures for monitoring ballots at polling stations.
Central Election Commission chairwoman Ella Pamfilova said later on Saturday that more than 6,200 ballots had been spoiled in five regions for procedural violations and ballot stuffing.
The United Russia party, loyal to President Vladimir Putin, seems certain to retain its dominance in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. Still, some projections suggest the party could lose its current two-thirds majority, which is enough to change the constitution. The Communists should recover most of the seats lost by United Russia.
Although the Communists generally support the Kremlin’s initiatives in parliament, winning seats would be a loss of face for United Russia. Communists are seen as potentially beneficiaries of the “smart vote” program promoted by jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his team, which aims to undermine United Russia by advising voters which candidates are best placed to defeat the candidates of United Russia.
However, it is unclear how effective the program will be after Apple and Google remove smart voting apps from their stores under pressure from the Kremlin. Authorities previously blocked access to its website. Navalny’s organizations have been declared extremists, barring anyone associated with them from standing for election, thereby eliminating top opposition candidates from the election.
In St. Petersburg, voter Pavel Ivanov said he had access to the service and followed his advice to vote for a small party that “does not fully match my preferences but (will present) some opposition to the ruling party. “.
Zyuganov said the party had documented at least 44 incidents of voting violations and that the Communists had asked for permission to hold protests next week after voting ended on Sunday.
On Saturday, the Znak news site said that a resident of the Moscow region was offering 1,000 rubles ($ 15) to people who voted for United Russia. The post said it called the man, who said payment would come if the caller provided proof of his vote through a messaging app.
The Golos movement cited reports from its observers and local media of a series of apparent violations, including ballots stored overnight in a cabinet with a broken door and envelopes to store ballot counts. vote appearing to have been opened and then closed.
On the first day of voting on Friday, unexpected queues formed at some polling stations, and independent media suggested this could show state institutions and businesses forcing employees to vote.
But despite these lines, the overall turnout appeared to be rambling. Pamfilova, the head of the electoral commission, said about 25% of the electorate voted by 3 p.m. on Saturday, about halfway through the ballot.
Some voters participated, but with little sense of involvement.
“I vote every year. What happens at the end is not up to us, nothing is up to us, ”Nikolai Martemyanov, a resident of the Siberian village of Desyatove, told The Associated Press.
St. Petersburg media reported on Friday suspected cases of “carousel voting,” in which voters cast their ballots at multiple polling stations. A PA video journalist saw the same voters, who are said to be students of military schools, at two different polling stations; one of them said that the group had initially taken the wrong polling station.
A member of the Russian Local Election Commission posted a video in which a man appeared to have attempted to vote several times and then was confronted by a poll worker. The man in the video said he got his ballots at a subway station.
Irina Titova in St. Petersburg and Yulya Alekseeva in Desyatovo contributed to this story.