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United Russia wins polls under new rules, opposition cry foul

Published time: October 15, 2012 11:23
Edited time: October 15, 2012 16:51
RIA Novosti / Andrei Lukovskiy

RIA Novosti / Andrei Lukovskiy

United Russia leader Dmitry Medvedev has congratulated party members over the victory in all the municipal elections held on Sunday, and reminded them of their obligations to the voters and political allies.

The elections were held under new rules and after the changes in the law on political parties. They were carried out in a ‘civilized way’ without any significant violations, Medvedev told top United Russia officials. “This raises hope that in future the elections will be held in the same civilized and democratic manner,” the Russian PM added.

The party leader noted that the talk and forecast of a downward trend in United Russia popularity proved to be false and that the victory was achieved under new elections rules – “there were more participating parties and the United Russia result is higher”.

However, Medvedev stressed that United Russia’s main objective was not simply a victory, but also strict observance of fair play, competition rules and of course the elections laws.

He added that after the victory at the municipal elections the party must concentrate on everyday problems, not complicated issues of nation-scale politics, as this was the only way to win the people’s trust. “The elections went well, but it is too early to relax,” Medvedev concluded.

President Vladimir Putin on Monday thanked the voters for supporting the institutes of power. Putin said the results of Sunday’s poll did not come as a surprise and added that it was another step confirming the electorate’s intent to support the development of Russian statehood.

Other top United Russia officials agreed that the support of the party remains high in large cities and major municipal centers. “I think it is a matter of principle, as after the December poll many people said that United Russia lost its dominance in large cities. Now it is obvious that the party demonstrated at this latest poll that it retains the dominance status in large cities,” said deputy chairman of UR’s General Council, Aleksey Chesnakov.

Opposition parties admitted defeat but concentrated on alleged violations during the polls, sometimes presenting the situation as a “complete disaster”.

The most radical position was expressed Fair Russia MP Dmitry Gudkov who announced via his Twitter that “the authorities leave the people no choice whatsoever”. The politician forecast that soon “all Russia will turn into Bolotnaya Square” hinting at the main venue of street protests that took place in Moscow after the December poll.

The head of the Liberal-Democratic Duma faction, Igor Lebedev, suggested that the protesters choose to ignore the elections. “This was not an organized event, everybody just made decisions for themselves, he added. However, the MP suggested that the low turnout was a warning sign for the ruling party. “United Russia repeats the mistake of the CPSU – usurping the power in their hands, which is a wrong thing to do,” Lebedev told the press.

Mikhail Yemelyanov of the Fair Russia faction also suggested that the low turnout was a sign of strife between the people and the parliamentary majority.

One top official of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation went further and stated that the low turnout was a national disaster. “This is a boycott, a conviction, this is distrust in the election system as a whole,” Sergey Obukhov said.

The head of Fair Russia Sergey Mironov told reporters that though his party candidates performed weakly, the use of “administrative resources” by United Russia was exceptionally high. “We felt that,” the politician told reporters.

Some of the opposition leaders, however, suggested that the low turnout was provoked by United Russia as it suited the party objectives. “Those in power have dug the new trenches for their defense. Before they let no one to take part in the polls and now they allowed all to run, but dropped the turnout and honed the falsification technologies,” said Mikhail Kasyanov of the Republican Party of Russia.

The number of reported violations at the election varies greatly depending on the source. According to the opposition parties, there were numerous violations, mostly taking the form of ballot stuffing by hired fraudsters. Russian activists and journalists even branded the trick as the “merry-go-round”. Monitors also reported illegal voting and most often – illegal propaganda at the polling stations. The Human Rights NGO Golos (“Voice”) reports that its activists registered about 800 such violations throughout the country.

On the other hand, the official Central Elections Commission reported that there were only 55 registered violations on all the elections, including some bizarre incidents, such as “pens with disappearing ink” and a broken traffic light on the way to the polling station.