The ruling United Russia party suffered a blow from three opposition parties whose candidates claimed nearly half of Moscow City Council’s seats during a contentious vote in the metropolis of 12 million people.
With all the votes counted, United Russia managed to retain a slim majority in the 45-member city council, but its share dropped to 25. The Communists, their longtime competitors, came second and won a remarkable 13 seats, up from just five in 2014.
Yabloko, Russia’s oldest liberal party, took four seats while the center-left Fair Russia won three. United Russia, whose candidates were formally running as independents, lost nearly a third of districts to their opposition rivals. The voter turnout was slightly above 21 percent.
The Moscow vote follows opposition rallies which sprang up after election officials disqualified numerous liberal candidates, citing failure to collect enough signatures of genuine voters.Almost every weekend, since late July, tens of thousands joined authorized and unauthorized protests, some of which ended up in scuffles with police.
In the run-up to the vote, Alexey Navalny, a vocal Kremlin critic and anti-corruption activist, urged Muscovites to cast their ballots for United Russia’s strongest opponents. He claimed that this strategy, called “smart voting,” would help outplay the ruling party in their constituencies.
Consequently, an array of high-ranked figures lost their seats in the council, among them Andrey Metelsky, the head of United Russia’s branch in Moscow. His popularity shrank on the back of allegations of running a large business and owning properties overseas.
Moscow’s mayor Sergey Sobyanin welcomed the results, calling the race “the most emotional and genuinely competitive one in recent history,” and pointing out that “political diversity” will benefit the city council.
The voting day ran smoothly even though Moscow police had been put on alert. No significant complaints were reported throughout Sunday, according to election authorities. There were reports on social media about violations by various activists which can’t be independently verified.
Also on rt.com
Nationwide local elections wind up in Russia after weeks of Moscow protests
At some point, an experimental online voting system went down twice and had to be rebooted.