The Kremlin has promised a clean contest in tomorrow’s Russian elections, but political opponents insist the ballot will be rigged. Even before the votes are cast the outcome is almost certain. The United Russia party of President Vladimir Putin is set for an overwhelming majority in the 450-seat Duma. The party is presenting the vote as a referendum on Putin rather than a typical parliamentary election.
Putin heads the party’s candidate list, and the anticipated victory should consolidate his position of power for after the end of his presidency next year. The goalposts have been made slightly smaller for the opposition, as parties must win at least seven percent of the vote to claim seats in the Duma, compared to five percent in 2003.
The Communist Party of Guennadi Zyuganov, which was backed by 12.6 percent of the electorate four years ago is expected to cross the new threshold. So too is the ultra-nationalist LDPR, which won just over 11 percent of votes last time round.
Unlikely to make it though is the pro-Western Yabloko Party led by Gregori Jawlinski, which did not reach the required five percent in 2003. Critics say the Kremlin has engineered a comfortable election win.
Police have broken up opposition rallies and street protests and there are claims that civil servants are being forced to vote in favour of Putin’s United Russia.