The election of the State Duma was seen as an important test of the mood for President Putin. His party has again chosen itself as the winner and speaks of a fair vote. Critics vehemently disagree. The EU is also skeptical.
Despite massive allegations of manipulation, the Kremlin sees no reason to doubt the legality of the parliamentary elections in Russia. The vote was “free and fair,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday in Moscow, according to the Interfax agency. “In this regard, we rate the election quite positively.”
The independent election observers of the Golos organization listed thousands of violations. The team of the imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny spoke of the “dirtiest election” in years.
Kremlin party clearly ahead
In the parliamentary elections in Russia, the Kremlin party is clearly in the lead after counting more than 90 percent of the ballots. United Russia has so far come to 49.6 percent, said the election commission in Moscow. The communists landed at 19.5 percent, the right-wing populists of the LDPR of the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky at just under 7.5 percent and the Just Russia party at 7.3 percent. The new party Nowyje Ljudi (German: New People) was just above the five percent hurdle.
All parties are considered close to the Kremlin. The United Russia party, supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin, celebrated its victory on Sunday evening when few votes were counted. She hoped for a new majority of 300 of the 450 seats in parliament thanks to many direct mandates. 225 seats are allocated through direct mandates.
The Kremlin expressed satisfaction with the performance of the ruling party. “The party’s task was to defend its leading position. This task was certainly accomplished,” said spokesman Peskov.
Compared to the Duma election in 2016, however, the Kremlin party has apparently suffered losses. At that time she got 54.20 percent of the vote. The communists, on the other hand, made significant gains – five years ago they had reached 13.35 percent. Surveys had shown United Russia at less than 30 percent in view of the great dissatisfaction with the economic and social situation before the election.
“These elections are much dirtier”
The opposition accuses the power apparatus of manipulating the election in favor of the Kremlin party. The supporters of the imprisoned government critic Alexej Navalny had called for a coordinated protest election against United Russia with the “smart vote” in order to break their monopoly on power. The Navalny confidante Leonid Volkov said that this method had achieved success in individual regions – but that can only be said in concrete terms after the preliminary final results have been presented.
Volkov criticized the short message service Twitter: “These elections are dirtier than the 2011 one – much dirtier.” The independent election observers of the Golos organization listed more than 4,000 violations. The stuffing of ballot boxes with packs of ballot papers was particularly widespread, but also forced voting, for example among government employees.
The political scientist Gleb Pawlowski expected that when the ballot papers were counted, the result would be improved in favor of the Kremlin party. “United Russia is no longer the party of power,” he told the independent Internet television channel Doschd.
Deputy head of the Communist Party does not want to accept the result
The party leader of the communists, Gennady Zyuganov, believes that United Russia, on “objective view”, no longer achieved an absolute majority. According to the Interfax agency, he once again warned of electoral fraud. The communists felt that no progress could be expected under the Kremlin party and Putin.
Gennady Zyuganov: The head of the Russian Communist Party does not believe that the Kremlin Party will achieve an absolute majority. (Source: imago / ITAR-TASS)
The deputy head of the Russian Communist Party, Dmitri Novikov, announced on Monday that he would not accept the results from Moscow. “We do not recognize the results of electronic voting in Moscow”. The results of the electronic voting were only published in the Russian capital on Monday afternoon. In other regions, they were available just a few hours after the polling stations closed on Sunday.
The election observation organization Golos spoke of a clearly verifiable fraud. She asked the electoral commission to cancel the results. The Golos expert Roman Udot announced on Facebook that 78,000 more ballot papers were shown for online voting than were given to eligible voters.
A curve clearly shows that towards the end of the vote on Sunday the number of votes cast clearly exceeded the number of registered votes. “If there is one more ballot in a ballot box than is legitimately given, then all the ballot papers will be declared invalid. And what if there are 78,000?” Said Udot.
Important mood test for Putin
The election commission had indicated the turnout on Sunday evening as 45 percent, on Monday there should be final figures. Around 110 million people were called to vote in Russia and abroad.
On Monday, Putin wanted to evaluate the vote with election officer Ella Pamfilova. The election was seen as an important test of sentiment for the Kremlin chief and his politics. Because of rising prices and falling wages, displeasure had recently grown.
At an election ceremony in Moscow, party officials announced that Putin’s course would be continued. Although the head of state was not present in his environment because of several corona cases, he was celebrated by supporters with “Putin, Putin, Putin” shouts.
Dissatisfaction with the Kremlin party is particularly high in Siberia
United Russia has lost the majority in the Far Eastern region of Yakutia. In the republic in eastern Siberia, where devastating forest fires have been raging for months, around 35 percent of the people voted for the communists. The party recorded an increase of almost 20 percentage points compared to the Duma election five years ago, according to publications by the election commission. United Russia only ended up in second place with around 33 percent.
Because of the damage caused by the fires, people are particularly dissatisfied with the authorities and the policies of United Russia in Yakutia. According to the Yakut Election Commission, representatives of the Kremlin Party, who support President Putin’s course, requested a review of the vote count. This is expected to happen in the middle of the week, said the chairman of the commission, Yevgeny Fedorov, according to the Interfax agency.
Federal government calls for clarification
In view of the massive allegations of fraud in the election, the German government is demanding clarification from Russia. There are “very serious indications from Russian opposition politicians and also from election observers” of “massive irregularities,” said government spokesman Steffen Seibert in Berlin on Monday. “You have to take that seriously.”
The federal government is also concerned “that there has really been a loss of social diversity and democratic participation in the run-up to the Duma elections because of the increasing pressure on the opposition and civil society,” said government spokesman Seibert.
The FDP politician Renata Alt previously criticized the election process as a “bad staging”. The manipulation allegations “raise massive doubts about the legitimacy of the election results,” she said. “The fact is: we will not have learned the true will of the Russian people today.” The FDP external expert Michael Link told the “Heilbronn Voice” that Putin was trying “in an almost paranoid manner to control the mood in the Russian population in his own way”.
Criticism also from the EU
The European Union has also sharply criticized the course of the Russian elections. The spokesman for EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell, Peter Stano, accused Moscow of creating an “atmosphere of intimidation for all critical independent voices” in Brussels on Monday. “We have a number of reports from independent observers on the ground that point to many irregularities during this election,” the spokesman said.
The EU also criticized the exclusion of “international, independent and credible observers” from the election, as is normally the case by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Borrell’s spokesman announced that the EU foreign ministers would deal with the elections in Russia on Monday evening on the sidelines of the UN general debate in New York. In addition, Borrell will make the EU criticism of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov clear.