Reported voting violations hamper parliamentary voting in Russia

Sunday afternoon – the last of three voting days the government allowed this year, citing coronavirus concerns – turnout was only over 40% and polls in the Far East of Russia and the Siberian regions were already closed.

Reports of violations from Russian media, opposition politicians and election observers have been pouring in since Friday morning, when long lines formed at polling stations in Moscow and other cities. Some of those in line told reporters they were forced to vote by their employers, often a state-run institution.

Over the weekend, several videos of ballot stuffing circulated on social media. In some areas, incidents of “carousel voting” have been reported – groups of voters voting multiple times at different polling stations – as well as clashes between election observers and election officials.

The head of Russia’s Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, has confirmed at least eight incidents of ballot stuffing in six Russian regions. In total, the committee has so far invalidated 7,465 ballot papers in 14 regions.

Ahead of the election, Putin expressed hope that the Kremlin’s United Russia Party would retain dominance in parliament after the vote. The party currently holds 334 out of 450 seats. However, a recent poll by the top independent pollster, the Levada Center, showed that only 27% of Russians are ready to vote for the ruling party.

In recent months, authorities have unleashed a broad crackdown on opposition politicians and the smart voting strategy devised by jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny to solidify the protest vote against United Russia. Smart voting increases the odds of victory for opposition candidates by telling voters which candidates in specific areas have the best chance of defeating those backed by the Kremlin, and authorities have made numerous attempts to wipe it out. Internet.

About fifty websites managed by Navalny have been blocked, including the one dedicated to Smart Voting.

On Friday, Apple and Google removed an app offering smart voting from their online stores to Russian users under pressure from the authorities. The founder of the Telegram messaging app, Pavel Durov, also blocked a chat bot dedicated to smart voting on Saturday. And YouTube has blocked access to several videos listing the candidates supported by Smart Voting.

Navalny’s allies attributed the crackdown on smart voting and reports of voting violations to the Kremlin’s lack of confidence in achieving the desired result: a two-thirds majority for United Russia to change Russia’s constitution.

“Either they are so insecure and fear the smart vote so much… higher than in 2011,” Navalny’s top strategist Leonid Volkov wrote on Facebook.

In the 2011 elections, reports of massive vote rigging among Russian parliamentarians sparked months of anti-government and anti-Putin protests.

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