Local elections in Russia pose test for Kremlin

Russians vote on Sunday in dozens of local elections that will be scrutinised for signs of discontent with the ruling United Russia party following the suspected poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, news wires reported. Navalny urged his supporters to vote against it tactically before he fell gravely ill in what Germany and his allies say was an attempt to kill him.

Seen as a dry run for next September’s parliament elections, the regional polls will elect 18 governors and an array of local parliaments and city councils. United Russia, which backs President Vladimir Putin, dominates regional politics, but the elections come at a time of public frustration over years of falling wages and the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Early voting began on Friday after authorities stretched out the elections over three days. The move was criticised by independent election watchdog Golos which warned the longer period would make it harder for monitors to catch fraud at polling stations.

Navalny’s allies have pressed ahead with the Kremlin critic’s “smart voting” strategy, naming more than a thousand politicians on the ballots they think can beat ruling party candidates and telling their supporters to vote for them. The strategy aims to disrupt a political system that often bars the Kremlin’s staunchest foes from running, while allowing softer candidates from the parliamentary parties to compete. Navalny has been unable to set up his own party.

Similar articles