Exit polls suggest that two pro-Kremlin parties have won the majority of votes in Russia’s regional elections. Research showed United Russia, backed by President Vladimir Putin, was in the lead in ten of the 14 regions. Just Russia, a new Kremlin-supported party, is also said to have done well. 31 million voters were eligible to cast ballots, that’s just under a third of the total electorate. Opposition parties claim they have been sidelined and say the elections are a sham. Former World Chess Champion and opposition politician Garry Kasparov:
“If you look today at the Russian election law, it is violating many constitutional rights of Russian citizens, and for the political parties there are so many obstacles created in order to enter the field of the competition, the opposition groups can be discarded as extremists by one of the Russian laws, and thus denied any access to participate in the elections.” he said during a television interview.
Political leaders see the weekend’s vote as a dress rehearsal for elections to the Duma, or lower house, in December. They will be closely followed by the presidential ballot in March 2008, when a successor to Putin will be chosen.