22 Sep, 2021

Russia votes amid widespread reports of voting irregularities

Despite the crackdown on opposition candidates and parties and amid widespread reports of voting irregularities and ballot tampering, elections to the federal parliament and regional parliaments were held across Russia from 17-19 September with the Yabloko party – ALDE Party member and the sole opposition party on the ballot criticising the current policies and offering a programme of change – denied from winning seats in the Federal Parliament (the State Duma).

The party participated in 56 election campaigns at the regional and municipal levels in 27 regions of Russia, fought against deregistrations and different obstacles in campaigning, but according to the preliminary results of the Central Electoral Commission received just 1.34% of the national vote and denied a win in any of the single-mandate constituencies.

Turnout was reported at 51.6%, with the final results to be announced on 24 September.

For the first time since 1993, election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were not present due to "major limitations" imposed by Russian authorities and local observers  reported many thousands of incidents of fraud.

In a statement by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union, the EU notes that “In the run-up to the elections, there was an increased crackdown on opposition politicians, civil society organisations and independent media outlets, as well as journalists. This resulted in the limitation of the choice for Russian voters and their ability to get full and accurate information about candidates.”

The EU calls on Russia’s leadership to reverse these negative developments “reiterates its deep concerns over the continuous pattern of shrinking space for the opposition, civil society and independent voices across Russia,” noting that “the EU does not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, and therefore does not recognise the so-called elections held in the occupied Crimean peninsula.”

For its part, ALDE Party member party Yabloko recorded many types of violations during voting in the elections to the State Duma, which party leader Nikolai Rybakov outlined at a briefing, as well as outlining pressure that had been put on its own observers.

He said: “carousels [when same people vote several times at different precincts], stuffing of ballots, people who died indicated as voters in the voter lists, observers are not allowed to see the voter lists, touch-screen voting machines are not sealed, home voting reaches 50% in some areas, voter books are not stitched or numbered, observers are prohibited from taking photos and videos, they are removed from polling stations and even beaten, portable ballot boxes are not sealed, there are malfunctions in the distant voting system.”

In spite of this, deputies from ALDE Party member party Yabloko will continue to work in the regional parliaments of St. Petersburg, Karelia and the Pskov region, having been able to win seats in regional elections held at the same time. Vladimir Ryzhkov will become the fifth deputy from Yabloko in the by-elections to the Moscow City Duma.

According to official data, the Yabloko party list in St. Petersburg received 9.17% of the vote, meaning that Alexander Shishlov, the Ombudsman for Human Rights in the city and, Boris Vishnevsky, the Deputy Chairman of the party and head of the Yabloko faction in the St.Petersburg Legislative Assembly, who found himself on the ballot alongside two other candidates of the same name and look, will become MPs to the Assembly.

In Karelia, the Yabloko party list received 8.54% in the regional elections equating to two mandates to be held by Emilia Slabunova, former party leader and now member of the Yabloko Federal Political Committee, and Inna Boluchevskaya. In Pskov, the party got 6.22% of the vote, meaning Arthur Gaiduk, the leader of the Yabloko candidates list, was elected deputy.

The party reported that a large number of its candidates came second in their constituencies, which they say “is a good start for the future”.

Photo credit: Moscow Live

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