Business World

Pro-Putin party wins majority

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MOSCOW — Russia’s ruling United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, retained its parliament­ary majority after an election and a sweeping crackdown on its critics, despite losing over a tenth of its support, partial results on Monday showed.

With nearly 74% of ballots counted, the Central Election Commission said United Russia had won nearly 49% of the vote, with its nearest rival, the Communist Party, at about 20%.

Although that amounts to an emphatic win, it looks like a somewhat weaker performanc­e for United Russia than the last time a parliament­ary election was held in 2016, when the party won just over 54% of the vote.

A malaise over years of faltering living standards and allegation­s of corruption from jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have drained some support, compounded by a tactical voting campaign organized by Mr. Navalny’s allies.

Kremlin critics, who alleged large-scale vote rigging, said the election was in any case a sham.

United Russia would have fared worse in a fair contest, given a preelectio­n crackdown that outlawed

Mr. Navalny’s movement, barred his allies from running and targeted critical media and non-government­al organizati­ons, they said.

Electoral authoritie­s said they had voided any results at voting stations where there had been obvious irregulari­ties and that the overall contest had been fair.

The outcome looks unlikely to change the political landscape, with Mr. Putin, who has been in power as president or prime minister since 1999, still dominating ahead of the next presidenti­al election in 2024. Mr. Putin has yet to say whether he will run. He was due to speak on Monday.

The 68-year-old leader remains a popular figure with many Russians who credit him with standing up to the West and restoring national pride.

The partial results showed the Communist Party finishing in second, followed by the nationalis­t LDPR party with about 8% and the Fair Russia party with about 7%. All three parties usually back the Kremlin on most key issues.

A new party called “New People,” appeared to have squeezed into parliament with just over 5%.

At a celebrator­y rally at United Russia’s headquarte­rs broadcast on state television, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a close ally of the Russian leader, shouted: “Putin! Putin! Putin!” to a flag-waving crowd that echoed his chant.

Allies of Mr. Navalny, who is serving a jail sentence for parole violations he denies, had encouraged tactical voting against United Russia, a scheme that amounted to supporting the candidate most likely to defeat it in a given electoral district.

In many cases, they had advised people to hold their noses and vote Communist. Authoritie­s had tried to block the initiative online.

The Central Election Commission was slow to release data from online voting in Moscow, where United Russia traditiona­lly does not fare as well as in other regions amid signs it may have lost some seats in the capital.

Golos, an election watchdog accused of being a foreign agent by authoritie­s, recorded thousands of violations, including threats against observers and ballot stuffing, blatant examples of which circulated on social media, with some individual­s caught on camera depositing bundles of votes in urns.

The Central Election Commission said it had recorded 12 cases of ballot stuffing in eight regions and that the results from those polling stations would be voided.

DOMINANCE

United Russia held nearly three quarters of the outgoing State Duma’s 450 seats. That dominance helped the Kremlin pass constituti­onal changes last year that allow Mr. Putin to run for two more terms as president after 2024, potentiall­y staying in power until 2036.

Mr. Navalny’s allies were barred from running in the election after his movement was banned in June as extremist. Other opposition figures allege they were targeted with dirty tricks campaigns.

The Kremlin denies a politicall­y driven crackdown and says individual­s are prosecuted for breaking the law. Both it and United Russia denied any role in the registrati­on process for candidates.

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