Vladimir Putin’s popularity was tested this weekend, five months after the Russian leader returned to the presidency. Voters went to the polls to select regional governors, as well as provincial and city leaders. Early results show Putin’s United Russia party dominated in the nearly 5,000 elections held across the country.
Opposition candidates even in some of the more high-profile races looked set to lose. In the Moscow suburb of Khimki, a young mother and vocal opponent of the destruction of local forests and the ruling party, appears to have lost to the incumbent.
Opponents criticized the elections, citing widespread voter fraud, and accusing the Kremlin of removing competitors in close races and pushing state employees into voting for its candidates. There were also claims of multiple voting and ballot stuffing.
Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, leader of the ruling party, said:
Everybody expected a party fiasco following the December election… Nothing like that has happened.
He added that the elections were “civilized” and fair.
…as far as I understand, nobody has spotted any significant violations so far.
Grigory Melkonyants, deputy director of voter monitoring group Golos said:
It’s sad that the situation hasn’t changed. The number of violations has not decreased, nor has it increased.
In competitive races violations are conducted without batting an eye.