The turnout by 6pm local time was a record low of 29 percent in Moscow, compared to over 50 percent five years earlier; more than 2,000 complaints of suspected vote rigging from all over the country were registered by the early afternoon.

Early results on Sunday showed Russia’s ruling United Russia party winning in the parliamentary election amid reports of election violations and visible voter apathy in the country’s two largest cities.

Less than 7 percent of the ballots were counted by 9pm (6pm GMT, 2pm EDT), showing United Russia receiving about 44 percent of the vote, with the Liberal Democrat Party trailing with 18 percent of the vote. The results are likely to change as votes in the west of Russia are counted.

Russian Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said, as the polls closed, that she had no reason to nullify the vote in any location, conceding, however, that the election “wasn’t sterile.”

The voting for the 450-seat State Duma, the lower house of parliament, is unlikely to substantially change the distribution of power, in which the pro-Kremlin United Russia party holds an absolute majority. But the perceived honesty of the election could be a critical factor in whether protests arise following the voting.

President Vladimir Putin (Photo: AP)


Massive demonstrations broke out in Moscow after the last Duma election in 2011, unsettling authorities with their size and persistence.

Voter turnout in Russia’s largest cities appeared to be much lower than five years ago, indicating that the widespread practice of coercing state employees to vote in previous elections wasn’t as prevalent this time around.

The turnout by 6pm (3pm GMT; 11am EDT) was at a record low of 29 percent in Moscow, compared to over 50 percent five years earlier, and under 20 percent in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city.

Previous elections have shown that the regions with the highest turnout were where voters, mostly state employees, were pressured to cast ballots.

Grigory Melkonyants, co-chairman of the election monitoring group Golos, attributed the weak showing on Sunday to voter apathy aided by almost invisible campaigning by the ruling party and the opposition alike.

Melkonyants said on the Dozhd online television station that it also reflected less anxiety among local authorities to produce a high turnout.

Golos had received more than 2,000 complaints of suspected vote rigging from all over the country by early afternoon.

Among the potential violations he cited were long lines of soldiers voting at stations where they weren’t registered, and voters casting their ballots on tables instead of curtained-off voting booths.

Russians vote in the Crimea for the first time since it was annexed by Russia (Photo: AP)


A video posted on YouTube appeared to show a poll worker in the southern Rostov region dropping multiple sheets of paper into a ballot box.

On Sunday morning, Pamiflova said results from voting in a Siberian region could be annulled if allegations of vote fraud there were confirmed.

A candidate from the liberal Yabloko party in the Altai region of Siberia told state news agency Tass that young people were voting in the name of elderly people unlikely to come to polling stations.

Independent election observers and opposition candidates on Sunday reported busloads of people arriving at their polling stations in Moscow to vote, fueling speculations of multiple voting with the help of absentee ballots.

Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Gorovoy said in televised comments that police are looking into the potential of fraud in both Altai and in Rostov, but said he hadn’t seen “the actual facts of the so-called cruise voting.”

Melkonyants of Golos said most of the complaints the organization received from Moscow were about those groups of voters although he said he “couldn’t categorically say that this is a violation.”

“But observers perceive it as a trick which local officials could be using in order to boost the turnout in their districts,” Melkonyants said, adding that the bus passengers also may have been coerced to vote in violation of Russian law.

Pamfilova conceded that boosting the turnout in the areas where it was expected to be low might explain the voters traveling by bus and denied suggestions of multiple voting.

“Wherever they go, they can’t influence results of the vote. It makes no difference where a person votes for the party of their choice,” she said.

Pamfilova is a well-known human rights activist whose appointment five months ago to head the election commission brought expectations that this year’s vote would see fewer controversies about violations. Pamfilova pledged to stand down if the election is proven to be rigged.

This election is a departure from the two previous votes for the Duma, in which seats were distributed on a national party-list basis. This year, half the seats are being contested in single districts. Independent candidates were also allowed, although only 23 met the requirements to get on the ballot, according to the elections-monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Pre-election polling by the independent Levada Center indicated that only the four parties now in parliament — United Russia, the Communists, the nationalist Liberal Democrats and A Just Russia — would get enough nationwide votes to be allotted seats. Prospects for the single-district races were unclear.

Russian soldiers vote in Saint Petersburg (Photo: AP)


Many voters at a polling station in southwest Moscow said the only reason to cast a ballot was to take votes away from United Russia, which has dominated the parliament for more than a decade.

Alexei Krugly, 63, said he voted for Yabloko because he “feels even more distaste for others.”

“They’re just as bad as everyone, but I stand for diversity,” he said. “This time I came (to vote) because Yabloko got its act together and I think it has chances to make it to the Duma.”

Voters also seemed anxious about the Russian economy, which has been battered by lower oil prices and economic sanctions from the West.

“The economy needs a boost,” Nikolay Kovalenko, 20, a first-time voter who went with the Kremlin-friendly business oriented Party of Growth, said. “United Russia been around for too long, we need to try something new.”

In the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, dozens of right-wing protesters gathered around the Russian Embassy, where a voting station was set up. At least one demonstrator was detained in a scuffle with police. Another demonstration took place outside the Russian consulate in Odessa, where four protesters were arrested.

As reported by Ynetnews