Russia′s ruling party triumphs in local elections | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 12.10.2009
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Russia's ruling party triumphs in local elections

While Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party claims sweeping victory in regional elections, opposition leaders say the vote was rigged.

Posters featuring Yury Luzhkov

Another victory for controversial Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov

According to official results reported Monday, United Russia captured a wide margin in elections which are being widely viewed as a test of Russia's democracy.

Leonid Ivlev, a member of the Central Elections Commission, told reporters that the ruling party had garnered almost 80 percent of seats up for grabs in the 75 regional and local elections held up and down the country on Sunday.

Ivlev said Putin's party picked up 107 of the 135 regional seats and 189 of the 235 seats available in municipal legislatures.

They also emerged victorious in the eagerly-watched race for Moscow's city legislature. With 99 percent of votes in, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported a 66 percent win for United Russia.

Praise from the president

The opposition Communists were the only rivals to score any seats in the high-profile ballot, which only managed to attract a 35 percent voter turnout.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev praised the results

In comments on the United Russia party website, President Dmitry Medvedev told his country, which has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn, that they had voted for the right party.

"Only together can we surmount the hardships of the financial crisis," he wrote, "and the vote obtained by United Russia demonstrates that we are together and this is most important."

He went on to say that the 30 million-strong electorate clearly knew what it wanted.

"Taking account that elections in the capital are practically federal ones, we can state that in the crisis situation voters have demonstrated they stay together with the ruling party."

Claims of fraud

But the liberal Yabloko party, which came away from the vote completely empty-handed, has made claims of systematic vote rigging.

Yabloko, which failed to reach the 7 percent hurdle in Moscow's local election, has condemned the 17-year-reign of Mayor Yury Luzhkov, accusing him of carrying out "one of the all-time election frauds in Russia's recent history."

On Sunday, while the ballot boxes were still open, Yabloko said it had received a "storm of calls" from the Moscow electorate, complaining that they were unable to cast their vote because someone else had already done so using their name.

"United Russia used so-called carousel voting," said Yabloko spokesman Sergey Mitrohin. "This time, it was busloads of soldiers and police that they took from one polling station to another and had them cast their votes for United Russia over and over. We also have serious reason to believe that the ballot boxes were stuffed with additional ballots."

Red Square, Moscow

Opposition parties say they will contest Moscow's municipal ballot

Yabloko and Communist Party representatives have already said they will contest the results of the municipal poll in court.

"We cannot recognize these elections or consider them normal," Communist Party deputy chairman Vladimir Kashin told RIA-Novosti.

The independent election watchdog Golog has come out behind the opposition parties, and has said it will provide proof of fraud.

Earlier, head of the watchdog, Liliya Shibanova, lamented the lack of political competition in Russia. "Medvedev says we need competition, we need a multi-party system, but election results show the exact opposite," she said.


tkw/dc/AFP/Reuters/dpa
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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