Parties faithful to president Vladimir Putin have won regional elections in Russia, according to preliminary results. It follows a campaign that has left the country’s weak opposition more marginalised than ever. More than 30 million people – one third of the electorate – were being called to the polls to elect new leadership in 14 provinces and 87 towns.
United Russia, a party that supports Vladimir Putin, is leading in 13 out of the 14 provinces. Just Russia, a new Kremlin-backed party, is also said to have done well. Analysts had widely predicted pro-government parties would lead thanks to a Kremlin-controlled media, a buoyant economy, generous funding and Putin’s strong popularity.
The opposition claims to have been sidelined and has denounced the election as a sham, saying it was plagued with irregularities. “If you look today at the Russian election law, it is violating many constitutional rights of Russian citizens,” said former world chess champion and leader of the Other Russia opposition movement, Gary Kasparov. The election and the campaign leading up to it were overshadowed by minor violence swiftly crushed by police. The vote was widely seen as a test run ahead of elections to the Duma in December and next year’s presidential ballot.