The Russian opposition is certain: the parliamentary elections around a week ago were systematically manipulated. But President Vladimir Putin now praises the vote as compliant with the law.
Around a week after the Russian parliamentary elections, which were overshadowed by allegations of fraud, Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin praised the vote as free and fair. “The elections themselves were open and in strict accordance with the law,” said Putin on Saturday afternoon in a conversation with top politicians from all parties represented in the new State Duma. Almost at the same time, hundreds of people protested in the capital Moscow against the result, which they believe to have been manipulated.
The communists called for the unauthorized rally in the central Pushkin Square, who took second place behind the Kremlin party, United Russia, with 18.9 percent of the vote. The MPs demanded, among other things, a recount of the votes cast online. According to the opinion of the opposition, these have been systematically falsified.
Solidarity with Navalny
Among the demonstrators were some people who held up posters in support of the imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny. A large number of police and prisoner transports were on site around Pushkin Square. Unlike the large Navalny protests at the beginning of the year, this time there were no reports of arrests during the action. According to the civil rights portal Owd-Info, however, a participant was later arrested near Red Square.
The Moscow police put the number of participants at 400, while independent observers spoke of around 1,000 demonstrators. The communist party leader, Gennady Zyuganov, did not attend the rally: he attended the meeting with Putin. The communists, like all parties represented in the Duma, are quite loyal to the Kremlin.
Absolute majority for Putin’s party
Putin emphasized in the conversation, which was held in video format, that it testifies to a democratic electoral process that, for the first time in many years, the Novyje Ljudi (German: New People) party has made it over the five percent hurdle. As before, the Kremlin party United Russia, the communists, the right-wing populists of the LDPR and the Just Russia party are represented in the 450-seat parliament.
The three-day vote last weekend was also seen as a mood test for Putin with a view to the 2024 presidential election. The 68-year-old now congratulated the Kremlin party in particular, which supported his course and which had proven “that it is still a leader”. Despite losses, United Russia was able to defend the absolute majority in the Duma with 49.8 percent of the vote, according to official figures.
The allegations of fraud, especially with regard to votes cast online, were dismissed by Putin: The reservations about e-voting only arose “because someone did not like the result”. Opposition and independent election observers, however, are convinced that the outcome of the election was systematically manipulated. In particular, the handling of the online votes of Moscow voters has sparked a lot of discussion. Their results were published late, and they influenced the final result in favor of United Russia.