Monday, October 12, 2009

Opponents Cry Foul in Russian Elections

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post on the regional elections in Russia. The results were just about as expected, with United Russia - the party of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - winning the vast majority of seats. The Communists, one of the "Kremlin-approved" opposition parties came in second in many races.

The AFP notes that the worst results for opponents of the ruling party came in Moscow, where the liberal Yabloko Party failed to even get 7% of the vote, the threshold parties needed to reach in order to win seats in the city legislature. That Yabloko failed to get even 7% of the vote in Russia's largest, and perhaps most-liberal city was seen as a crisis for the opposition.

They also say it is a clear indication that the voting was rigged in favor of United Russia and Kremlin-approved candidates. Before voting started a collection of opposition groups, led by politician Boris Nemtsov, said the elections wouldn't be fair since many opposition candidates were disqualified before the voting even began. Russia's independent election monitoring group GOLOS cited reports from across the country of opposition candidates being blocked from the ballots and of people - especially people involved with state-run schools or large corporations with government ties - facing pressure to support the "right" candidates. A widely-reported tactic from Russia's last major election was that students were told to use their cellphones to take a picture of their ballot before casting it as a way of proving they had voted as instructed.

Golos said that reports of such incidents did not "allow us to conclude that the elections met Russian and international standards for fair, free and competitive elections."

Meanwhile in the one race we were keeping an eye on the "Russian Obama", Joaquim Crima, fell short in his bid to win a seat on a regional council in the Volgograd Region, in fact he fell far short. Crima won just 4.75% of the vote, well short of the winning candidate's 40%, though good enough for third place in a seven-candidate field. Still, Crima said he was "pleasantly surprised" by his showing and said he never expected to gather nearly 5% of the vote. He ran on a platform that the government was not providing enough in social services to the rural communities outside of Volgograd.

People of African ancestry make up just a small fraction of one percent of Russia's total population. In recent years they have been the target of violent, racist attacks in many Russian cities.
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