NEWSLINK: Russian elections preserve Putin’s dominance, opponents cry foul

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

Russian elections preserve Putin’s dominance, opponents cry foul – Reuters – Gabriela Baczynska and Maria Tsvetkova – October 14, 2012 –

Reuters covers Russia’s recent regional elections.  Vladimir Putin-backed ruling party United Russia came out on top, but amidst widespread allegations of voting violations:

The first big elections since Putin began a new six-year term in May will do little to appease opponents who say he has used election fraud and suppression of dissent to maintain his grip on power.

Results from contests from the Baltic Sea to Kamchatka on the Pacific Ocean showed United Russia had won or was heading for victory in all five provincial governorship races, and in several votes for provincial and city legislatures.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev claims that United Russia did better than in the December Duma elections that had prompted mass protests against election fraud.

Despite Medvedev claims of no violations, the opposition cried foul:

… opponents accused the Kremlin of using its position to give favored candidates an unfair advantage by removing competitors from races and pressuring state employees to vote for candidates backed by United Russia.

They also alleged violations in races around the country on election day, including multiple voting and ballot-stuffing.

“It’s sad that the situation hasn’t changed. The number of violations has not decreased, nor has it increased” compared to previous elections, said Grigory Melkonyants, deputy director of Western-funded vote monitoring group Golos.

“In competitive races violations are conducted without batting an eye. It’s nothing new, they continue to conduct … ballot-stuffing and ‘carousels’,” he said of a practice in which groups of people cast ballots at several polling stations.

The votes included ballots for regional governors in five of Russia’s 83 provinces, the first since the Kremlin restored popular elections of regional chiefs, which Putin had scrapped as he tightened control during his 2000-2008 presidency.

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