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Russia: local elections, Putin’s party suffers heavy losses in Moscow. Allegations of fraud and violence

The seats won in Moscow’s Duma by the representatives linked to United Russia, the party backing President Vladimir Putin, dropped from 40 to 26. That is the main news about the local elections that were held in several regions of Russia yesterday. For opposition parties, Moscow marks a first step, especially in view of the federal elections for the renewal of the State Duma in 2021. Despite this, United Russia retained its majority in Moscow’s 45-seat city council and won 70% of the total votes cast in these local elections. Today, however, opposition leaders hail the success of their “smart voting” campaign, which had called on voters to back opposition candidates with the best chances to defeat United Russia, regardless of their party. Today, too, opposition leaders and activists speak out against suspected fraud and irregularities, including the fact that electoral authorities refused to register some candidates – which led to protests and violent clashes in Moscow; the fact that United Russia hid “the name of the party on the ballots” and used “administrative resources” to fund its electoral campaign; and “vote rigging” and even violence (in St Petersburg). “We have won”, opposition leader Aleksei Navalny wrote on his blog today, commenting on the results. United Russia declares victory because, according to President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, “the party continues to show its political leadership in the country”.

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