Polls are closing in Russia’s parliamentary elections on Sunday, as the three-day vote is set to deliver another majority to President Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia.
The elections come as Putin’s best-known opponent, Alexei Navalny, sits in jail, with his organization banned and labeled “extremist.” As such, anyone with ties to Navlany who sought to compete in the vote was not able to do so.
Some 13 parties are running in the elections, but they are widely seen as token opposition that the Kremlin allows to participate. According to Russia’s election commission, turnout was at 35% as of Sunday morning.
United Russia currently holds nearly three quarters of the 450 seats in the State Duma, the country’s lower house. That dominance has helped the Kremlin approve major constitutional reforms, one of which allows Putin to run for two more terms as president after 2024, potentially staying in power until 2036.
“If United Russia manages [to win], our country can expect another five years of poverty, five years of repressions, five lost years,” Navalny’s blog warned supporters ahead of the vote.
Navalny’s allies made a final plea to voters on his Instagram account on Sunday. “Today is a day when your voice truly matters,” the team who run Navalny’s account while he is in prison wrote.
The Kremlin has denied the crackdown on opposition parties is politically motivated, saying individuals are just being prosecuted for breaking the law.
To overcome their disadvantages, Navalny’s camp promoted a strategy of tactical voting, using the so-called “Smart Voting” app to tell supporters which candidate are most likely to defeat United Russia in a given electoral district.
But the move was thwarted. As voting kicked off on Friday, Apple and Google removed Navalny’s app. By late Friday, the popular Telegram messenger app had also removed Navalny’s app and by Sunday, Google Docs and YouTube videos containing the names of the recommended candidates had also been blocked.
Additionally, independent election monitor Golos, which authorities have labeled a “foreign agent,” recorded more than 3,600 reports of voting violations.
jcg/jlw (dpa, Reuters)