Sunday, October 11, 2009

Russia Votes, Opposition Cries Foul

Voting is underway across much of Russia for seats on city and regional councils, but already opposition groups are declaring the elections fraudulent.

A collection of opposition groups rallied in the streets of Moscow, led by politician Boris Nemtsov, on Sunday to protest the city-wide elections. Earlier this year Nemtsov lost badly to the Kremlin-backed candidate in the mayor's election in his hometown of Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Nemtsov alleged that his supporters were harassed and that he was denied access to the media, part of a Kremlin plan to get their man elected mayor so they could control the preparations for the Games.

Moscow officials denied any wrongdoing in today's vote, saying that vote-rigging was a crime. Critics countered by saying there was no need to actually rig votes, city officials made sure that any opposition candidates - except for Kremlin-approved opposition parties like the Communists or Liberal Democrats, parties with limited popular support and thus no real threat to United Russia, the party of Medvedev and Putin - were disqualified from the election and never appeared on the ballot in the first place.

Results should come in tomorrow. One race we'll keep an eye on is in the Volgograd region where African immigrant Joachim "Vasily" Crima is trying to become Russia's first black elected politician.
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