Communists, observers report violations in Russian election
MOSCOW AP — Russia’s Communist Party’s head is claiming widespread violations in the election to a new national legislature in which his party is widely anticipated to win seats.
Late Saturday, a YouTube video where Alexei Navalny’s associates recommended who to vote for to weaken the dominant United Russia party was blocked by Russia. The video was still accessible via non-Russian servers.
Communist Party chief Gennady Ziuganov stated Saturday, the second day of the election’s voting, that the police and the national electoral commission had to respond to “a number of absolutely outrageous facts”, including ballot-stuffing across several regions.
Independent media and the Golos election-monitoring group also reported violations, including vote-buying as well as lax security measures at polling stations. Ella Pamfilova, head of the
Central Elections Commission, said Saturday that six ,200 votes had been canceled in five regions due to procedural violations or ballot-stuffing.
The United Russia party is loyal to President Vladimir Putin and appears to be able to maintain its dominant position in the State Duma (the lower house of parliament). Some projections show that the party may lose its two-thirds majority. This would be enough to amend the constitution. The Communists will likely win the largest share of seats that United Russia has lost.
Although the Communists support Kremlin initiatives within the parliament, their winning seats would be a loss for United Russia. The “Smart Voting” program, promoted by Navalny’s team and aimed at weakening United Russia by providing voters with information on the best candidates to defeat them, is seen as benefiting the Communists.
However, it is unclear how effective this program will be following the YouTube blockage. This happened a day after Apple & Google pulled Smart Voting apps out of their stores. Its website was previously blocked by authorities. Navalny’s groups have been declared extremist and all those associated with them are prohibited from running for office. This has effectively eliminated the most important opposition candidates from the election.
Smart Voting was also blocked by the Telegram messaging app. It was founded by Pavel Durov, a Russian-born entrepreneur. Durov claimed Saturday that the service blocked all election-related bots to comply with laws prohibiting campaigning after voting begins.
In St. Petersburg, voter Pavel Ivanov stated that he had access Smart Voting and voted for a party that “doesn’t meet my preferences to a full extent but (will present) a certain opposition party .”
Zyuganov claimed that the party has tallied at most 44 instances of voting violations and that the Communists have applied to hold protests next Monday after the voting closes.
On Saturday, Znak reported that a Moscow resident offered 1 ,000 rubles for people who voted United Russia. According to the publication, it called the man and asked for proof of vote via a messaging app.
The Golos movement reported that ballots were stored in a cabinet with broken doors overnight and that envelopes used to store ballot tallies appeared to have been opened, then resealed.
On Friday’s first day of voting, lines formed unexpectedly at several polling stations. Independent media suggested that this could be evidence that employees were being forced to vote by state institutions or companies.
Despite these lines, the overall turnout seemed to be low. Pamfilova, head of the elections commission, stated that 25% had cast their ballots by 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, which was about half way through the voting.
Some voters participated, but they felt little involved.
” I vote every year. Nikolai Martemyanov, a Siberian resident, said to The Associated Press that what happens in the end doesn’t depend on us.
Media in St. Petersburg reported Friday on possible cases of “carousel vote,” where voters cast their ballots at multiple polling stations. A video journalist from AP saw the same voters at two polling stations. One of the witnesses said that the group had mistakenly gone to the wrong station.
A member of the local Russian election commission posted a video where a man tried to cast multiple ballots before being confronted and stopped by a worker. In the video, the man claims that he obtained his ballots from a subway station.