Russia votes with Putin secure
RUSSIANS yesterday voted in parliamentary polls, with parties loyal to President Vladimir Putin set to maintain their dominance despite the Kremlin making a show of cleaning up the vote after mass protests last time around.
The nationwide elections follow several years of tumult that have seen the country annex Crimea from Ukraine, lurch into its worst standoff with the West since the Cold War, plunge into economic crisis and launch a military campaign in Syria.
But Mr Putin’s ratings remain high at around 80 percent and, with the Kremlin in tight control of the media and public discourse, authorities appear to be banking on a trouble-free vote paving the way for him to cruise to a fourth term as president at polls in 2018.
Despite the dramatic events that have rocked the country, the campaign for the State Duma – widely seen as a rubber-stamp body that has slavishly toed the Kremlin line – was dubbed the most boring in recent memory by observers, and high levels of voter apathy suggest that turnout could be low.
“The campaign wasn’t interesting,” said 70-year-old Alexander, voting in Moscow yesterday. “They all promise a lot but they’re treading a familiar path.”
Another elderly voter, 75-yearold Valentina Panteleyeva, said she backed the ruling United Russia party because Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin “has done a lot for us”.
For the first time, residents of the Russia-annexed Black Sea peninsula of Crimea are among the roughly 110 million voters eligible to cast their ballots for the 450-seat Duma in polls condemned as illegal by Ukraine.