Moscow (AP) – About a week after Russia’s parliamentary elections, which were overshadowed by allegations of fraud, Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin called the vote free and fair.
“The elections themselves were open and in strict compliance with the law,” Putin said on Saturday afternoon during a conversation with politicians from all parties represented in the new State Duma. Almost at the same time, hundreds of people demonstrated in the capital Moscow against the result, which they believe to have been manipulated.
Communists called for an unauthorized rally in central Pushkin Square, which came second behind the Kremlin’s United Russia party with 18.9 percent of the vote. MEPs called for, among other things, a recount of the votes cast online. According to the opposition’s opinion, these have been systematically falsified.
Among the protesters were people waving posters in support of jailed Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny. A large number of police and prisoner transports were on site around Pushkin Square. Unlike the big Navalny protests earlier this year, this time around no arrests were reported during the action. According to civil rights portal Owd-Info, however, a participant was later arrested near Red Square.
Moscow police put the number of participants at 400, while independent observers spoke of around 1,000 protesters. Communist Party leader Gennady Ziuganov did not attend the rally: he attended the meeting with Putin. Like all parties represented in the Duma, the Communists are considered quite loyal to the Kremlin.
Putin pointed out in the conversation, which took place in video format, that it is a testament to a democratic electoral process that, for the first time in many years, the Novyje Ljudi party (in German: New People) has passed. the five percent hurdle. As before, the United Russia Kremlin Party, the Communists, the right-wing populists of the LDPR and the Just Russia Party are represented in the 450-seat parliament.
The three-day vote last weekend was also seen as a test of the mood for Putin ahead of the 2024 presidential election. The 68-year-old has now praised the Kremlin party in particular, which has supported his career and who had proved “that he is still a leader”. Despite the losses, United Russia was able to defend an absolute majority in the Duma with 49.8% of the vote, according to official figures.
Putin has rejected allegations of fraud – especially with regard to votes cast online -: reservations about electronic voting only arose because “someone didn’t like the result”. The opposition and independent election observers, however, are convinced that the election result was systematically manipulated. Above all, the management of Moscow voters’ online votes has given rise to much discussion. Their results were published late and they influenced the final result in favor of United Russia.