Putin suffers a poll setback amid claims of electoral fraud

PM's popularity slumps despite reports of ballot stuffing and multiple voting

Moscow

Despite widespread reports of electoral fraud, Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party failed to secure the resounding victory it had hoped for in yesterday's parliamentary elections, early results indicated.

With 40 per cent of the votes counted last night, Russia's Central Election Committee said that United Russia had received just under 50 per cent in elections that were seen as a test of popularity ahead of a presidential vote next March, when Mr Putin intends to return to the Kremlin after a four-year stint as Prime Minister. Official exit polls gave similar results.

Despite endless positive media coverage on state-controlled television, reports of ballot stuffing and multiple voting, and pressure on public sector workers to vote for United Russia, the party's support dropped significantly from the 64 per cent it received in 2007.

"It's a total disaster for the party of power," said political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky, shortly after the first exit polls were announced. Reports of foul play designed to boost results for Mr Putin's party were widespread. Golos, the country's only independent election monitoring organisation, kept a spreadsheet with thousands of violations across the country.

There was a claim – backed by a video – that one polling station in Moscow had pens that used erasable ink, meaning that ballots could in theory be tampered with after voting.

In the city of Bryansk, Golos claimed that its election observer had been locked in the toilet at a polling station and not let out. Elsewhere, a Russian journalist went undercover on a bus full of Kremlin youth activists who were being ferried around Moscow to vote, repeatedly, at different polling stations, in favour of United Russia. Known as a "carousel", this practice was the talking point of the day, with claims that it was widespread, adding thousands of extra votes for Mr Putin's party.

A number of protests were held throughout the day by small groups of opposition activists in various cities, but most of them were swiftly broken up. Several opposition leaders were arrested for taking part in an unsanctioned protest in Moscow. Police said that they had detained about 100 protesters in the capital.

In a further sign of pressure on the opposition, what appeared to be coordinated hacker attacks put several liberal and opposition media websites out of service, including that of Russia's best known radio station, Ekho Moskvy, and several internet news sites. Also hit was the website of Golos, which has been subjected to a smear campaign in state-controlled media.

At a school in central Moscow, there was a steady stream of voters. For Tatyana Misharina, 69, her vote for United Russia was "a way to say thank you to Putin for making things better". She said. "He's an honest man and he works hard to make Russia as great as it used to be." Her sentiments were rare among voters. Many elderly said they had voted for the Communists, while younger voters tended to say they had picked one of the opposition parties, based on an "anyone but United Russia" sentiment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore