Tuesday, November 30

Ruling United Russia Party Offers Payments To Ensure Election Victory | Russia

The Russian government has silenced opposition voices, approved cash payments to potential voters and made it nearly impossible to monitor the polls as it prepares for next month’s parliamentary elections that the opposition has warned will be affected by fraud.

United Russia, the ruling party that has supported Vladimir Putin for almost his entire presidency, is expected to hold the majority of seats in the next Duma, despite state polls showing only 26% of Russians are ready. to vote for the party. its lowest rating since 2008.

Critics of the Kremlin have said the government has no choice but to offer one-time cash gifts to make up for the lack of enthusiasm and deliver the kind of victory the ruling party has grown accustomed to. Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, an opposition party that often votes with United Russia, has seen growing support in the polls as a likely recipient of the protest vote.

Putin is still much more popular than United Russia and has refused to join the party, probably to avoid lowering his audience ratings. However, l He appeared at the party’s conference last week and promised the equivalent of £ 150 in payments to members of the military and £ 100 to retirees before the election, while calling for similar proposals for families with children. While the offers are not directly related to voting, they are seen as an easy, if expensive, way to gain support.

“The barely veiled bribery of voters, all kinds of manipulations, administrative mobilization [resources] and persecute critics of the regime: these are the electoral tactics of Putin and his party in 2021 ”. wrote Fyodor Krashennikov, an opposition political commentator who recently went to Europe because he said he felt pressure from the government. “All Vladimir Putin can offer voters is fear, coercion and a little money.”

Meanwhile, the rules have been changed to make it more difficult to monitor voting. The elections will be held over three days from September 17-19, rather than just one, which will make it difficult for poll workers to compare the total number of voters with the votes claimed by United Russia. The public has been blocked from viewing images from local polling station cameras, unlike in previous years. And Golos, the NGO that helped reveal the fraud in 2011 and other past elections, has been declared a “foreign agent.”

A worker paints over graffiti of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg.
A worker paints over graffiti of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg. The inscription reads: “The hero of the new times.” Photograph: Olga Maltseva / AFP / Getty Images

“This is a serious sign that fakes are being prepared,” said Grigory Melkonyants, one of the organization’s leaders.

Ella Pamfilova, a former human rights defender who has become the head of Russia’s electoral commission, said access to cameras in polling stations had been blocked to prevent cyberattacks. The explanation was met with skepticism by journalists and opponents of the Kremlin.

“Guys, what kind of comparisons are these?” he said when asked about previous access to the cameras. “These are different times, there was no cyber attack or cyber war like now.”

Prominent opponents of Putin have been jailed or expelled from the country. Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader who previously ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013, has been in jail since January on longstanding fraud charges that are seen as politically motivated. His national political organization and investigative unit, which has allegedly linked to the corruption of both Putin and former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, have been liquidated by extremists. Many of its members have fled to avoid arrest.

Other charismatic opposition leaders have also been excluded from the polls or told that they cannot run because of “extremist” ties. Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition leader who had previously served in the State Duma, said it would have been “impossible” for him to run. He left Russia in June, saying he would face criminal charges if he stayed.

“They have all been expelled,” said Anastasia Bryukhanova, an opposition candidate in a northern Moscow district who will likely see a strong protest vote for her and several other liberal candidates. He said he was lucky to be on the ballot, thanks both to strong fundraising and a lower profile than some opposition leaders seeking to be elected to the legislature.

“I am very well known in Moscow. But in this election, these kinds of decisions are made in the Kremlin. And I doubt they ever heard of a girl named Anastasia Bryukhanova there. “


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