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article imageLow turnout, fraud claims mar Russia local elections

By AFP     Sep 10, 2017 in Politics

Russians shunned the polls Sunday for local elections which are the last vote before the presidential elections in March next year, with very low turnout rates as the opposition cried foul.

There were numerous cases of fraud in the some 6,000 polls organised in 82 regions to elect 16 regional governors and many municipal councils, the opposition claimed, saying things were worst in the capital Moscow.

According to preliminary results, the vote went well for parties close to the ruling United Russia, which scored a resounding majority in legislative elections a year ago.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the results were "very favourable" for United Russia, of which he is president, according to comments given to Russian press agencies.

Voter turnout rates were low, in particular in Moscow where the electoral commision said that only 14 to 15 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, according to figures available two hours before polling stations closed.

The vote was being followed closely in the capital, where an unprecedented number of candidates under 35 -- 2,800 out of 7,600 -- were running to fill 1,500 municipal councillor posts.

Some commentators have said this is the result of protests organised earlier this year by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which mobilised students and young people.

The opposition had been hoping to snatch a few positions in the local polls and had denounced the silences of municipal authorities, arguing the vote was organised amid widespread indifference.

A representative of the liberal party Yabloko, Sergei Mitrokhin, accused authorities of using "every means of giving people a sense of electoral powerlessness... to make sure that the people they need stay in power."

Both he and Alexei Navalny pointed to numerous instances of fraud, with the NGO Golos saying it had received some 500 complaints, including claims of abuses of voting from home and pressure from officials.

Enjoying resounding domestic popularity, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not officially announced his intention to run in next year's presidential election, but he is widely expected to seek a fourth six-year term.

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