Vladimir Putin will today address the nation after he bagged a landslide victory in Russia’s ‘most corrupt parliamentary elections ever.’
With more than 85 per cent of ballots counted on Monday, the Central Election Commission said Putin’s United Russia party had won almost half of the vote, with its nearest rival, the Communist Party, at just under 20 per cent.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed the ‘competitiveness, openness and honesty’ of the elections, saying it was clear that ‘United Russia is the main preference of the voters’.
The results came after videos emerged which allegedly showed ballot stuffing for the United Russia party amid claims that the election was rigged.
Irina, 61, a retired doctor, told The Times: ‘I vote so that at least my vote can be registered, and so no one can steal that vote from me. These elections are even worse than previous ones. They’ve purged the field.’
The parliamentary landslide leaves Putin’s presidency unchallenged in the legislature ahead of the next presidential election in 2024.
The 68-year-old former KGB spy was due to address the nation on Monday morning, however a shooting at a university in the Urals may have caused a postponement.
Putin, who has been in power as prime minister or president since 1999, has yet to say whether he will run at the next presidential election.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to address the nation this morning after his party secured a landslide in the parliamentary elections (pictured: attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on Friday)
Members of a local electoral commission empty a ballot box at a polling station after the last day of the three-day parliamentary election, in Moscow, on September 19
In Pyotr Dubrava, Samara region at polling station 706 an election official is seen filling in papers before walking over to place them in a ballot box
In Belovo, Kemerovo region, a hidden figure behind a woman I yellow repeatedly stuffs ballots into a polling box
Despite the emphatic election win, United Russia saw a slightly weaker performance than at the last parliamentary election in 2016, when the party won just over 54 per cent of the vote.
A malaise over years of faltering living standards and allegations of corruption from jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have drained some support, compounded by a tactical voting campaign organised by Navalny’s allies.
Kremlin critics, who alleged large-scale vote rigging, said the election was in any case a sham.
United Russia would have fared much worse in a fair contest, given a pre-election crackdown that outlawed Navalny’s movement, barred his allies from running and targeted critical media and non-governmental organisations, they said.
Electoral authorities said they had voided any results at voting stations where there had been obvious irregularities and that the overall contest had been fair.
At a celebratory rally last night at United Russia’s headquarters broadcast on state television, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a close ally of the Russian leader, shouted: ‘Putin! Putin! Putin!’
The results came after shocking videos were revealed allegedly showing illegal rigging in favour of the main pro-Putin party which pundits expect to win a clear majority.
In Vladivostok, a camera behind a plant showed an official apparently marking many previously blank ballot papers.
In Belovo, Kemerovo region, a hidden figure behind a woman in yellow repeatedly stuffs ballots into a polling box.
In Bryansk region, two women are seen packing ballots into a box, as laughter is heard in the polling station.
In Pyotr Dubrava, Samara region at polling station 706 an election official is seen filling in papers before walking over to place them in a ballot box.
Most of the ‘abuse’ went ahead in full view of CCTV cameras.
All these cases are highlighted by opposition sites as evidence of rigging in the key parliamentary election.
There were reports of voters being bribed in TransBaikal – where one said he was offered 150 roubles (£1.50) for his vote as well as Yakutia and Novosibirsk.
Chechen women wearing Chechen national costumes leave a polling booth at a polling station during the Parliamentary elections in Grozny, Russia, Sunday
Elsewhere there were claims of people driving around polling stations to vote multiple times.
At a polling station in Yakutia, some 30 per cent of ballot papers had not arrived, prompting fears they were illegally completed, to be added to piles of votes at the count.
In three regions, local election commission chiefs were fired during the poll after ‘extra ballots were discovered’ at polling stations, said Central Election Commission head, Ella Pamfilova.
The regions were Bryansk, Kemerovo and the republic of Adygea, she said.
‘At the moment, eight cases of ballot stuffing have been confirmed,’ she said.
But the moves were seen as a token initiative unlikely to convince the opposition that the poll was fair.
Last night a retired doctor called Irina, 61, was quoted by The Times as saying: ‘I vote so that at least my vote can be registered, and so no one can steal that vote from me. These elections are even worse than previous ones. They’ve purged the field.’
Recent months have seen the banning or jailing of key Putin foes, and their parties, such as campaigner Alexei Navalny, now jailed.
Some have been labelled ‘extremist’ or ‘foreign agents’.
Despite this, Navalny repeatedly posted messages during the election calling for tactical voting against pro-Putin candidates.
The popular Telegram messenger had removed Navalny’s ‘Smart Voting’ bot, while the opposition claimed Western web giants had been cowed by the Kremlin in removing Google Docs and YouTube videos containing lists of the recommended candidates.
Yet several opposition parties expected to slightly gain regularly back the Kremlin on key issues.
Putin has remained on self-isolation during the three days of polling after a reported outbreak of Covid-19 in his entourage.
Turnout reached 40.49 per cent by 2:50pm today, the final day of voting, said officials.
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during parliamentary elections at the Russian embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania
The impact of online voting – more widely available than in previous elections – was not clear.
One opposition activist reported: ‘Total [ballot] stuffing continues in St. Petersburg.
‘Criminals are not ashamed of anything and shove packs (of votes) right under the camera of the observers.
‘They know perfectly well that they will not be punished, rather they will get promoted.’
Earlier huge queues of ‘state employees’ including soldiers were seen at polling stations around the country amid claims they had been ordered to vote at specific locations to sway the result.
In a week when Russia has seen non-stop war games close to its western frontiers, it seemed like the latest military exercise: Operation Get Out The Vote.
In St Petersburg, a woman was detained after carrying a bag to a voting place stuffed with 100-plus ballot papers.