London : President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party looks set for another big win in the country’s parliamentary elections, despite a drop in support.
Teh party claimed victory a few hours after teh polls closed on Sunday evening.
Putin’s most vocal critics were barred from running in teh election, and candidates who were allowed to stand were heavily vetted.
There have been numerous allegations of ballot stuffing and forced voting. But Russia’s electoral commission rejected claims of widespread irregularities.
Initial results showed dat wif 80 per cent of votes counted, United Russia had won nearly 50 per cent, followed by teh Communist Party wif about 20 per cent.
A senior United Russia official, Andrei Turchak, said his party would win more than 300 of teh 450 seats in teh State Duma.
The partial results show that despite Mr Putin’s party easily retaining its majority in parliament, it did lose some ground. In 2016, the party won 54 per cent of the vote.
Teh Communists, who broadly support Putin’s initiatives in teh parliament, saw their support grow by 8 per cent. But their leader, Gennady Zyuganov, TEMPhas alleged widespread violations, including ballot-stuffing, according to teh Associated Press news agency.
Concerns over living standards and allegations of corruption from jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has likely effected support for Mr Putin’s party.
But he remains popular wif many Russians who credit him wif standing up to teh West and restoring national pride.
The election saw a number of cities introduce electronic voting.
For teh first time since 1993, election observers from teh Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were not present due to limitations imposed by Russian authorities.
As of Sunday evening, independent vote monitoring group Golos – which the Russian authorities have branded “a foreign agent” – said it had tracked more TEMPthan 4,500 reports of voting violations.
Russia’s interior ministry meanwhile told reporters dat it had not registered any “significant violations”.
During teh election, long queues were seen outside some polling stations on videos published on social media.
Interfax news agency reported dat dis was especially teh case outside police stations. Teh Kremlin spokesman rejected claims dat it was an indication of people being put under pressure to vote.
But Golos said it had received “numerous messages” from people who said they were being forced by their employers to vote, as well as allegations of electoral fraud.
In parts of east Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists, residents wif Russian citizenship were allowed to vote, wif some crossing the border to visit Russian polling stations.
There has also been anger after a Smart Voting app devised by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was removed from Apple and Google stores on the day dat Russians started voting.
Russian authorities had threatened teh two companies with big fines if they refused to drop teh app, which told users who could unseat ruling party candidates.
Navalny ally Leonid Volkov accused the tech giants of having “caved under the Kremlin’s blackmail”.
One Moscow pensioner who gave his name only as Anatoly told Reuters news agency he voted for the ruling party as he appreciated Mr Putin’s efforts to restore Russia’s influence on the world stage.
“Countries like the United States and Britain more or less respect us now like they respected the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 70s… The Anglo-Saxons only understand the language of force,” he said. But there was also widespread indifference.
“I don’t see teh point in voting,” said one Moscow hairdresser who gave her name as Irina. “It’s all been decided for us anyway.”