Russian pro-Putin party wins majority after crackdown; foes cry foul

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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, but opponents alleged widespread fraud.
With 85% of ballots counted on Monday, the Central Election Commission said United Russia had won nearly 50% of the vote, with its nearest rival, the Communist Party, at just under 20%.
Although that amounts to an emphatic official win, it is a slightly weaker performance for United Russia than at the last parliamentary election 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 organised by 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 much worse in a fair contest, given a pre-election crackdown that outlawed Navalny’s movement, barred his allies from running and targeted critical media and non-governmental organisations, 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 Putin, who has been in power as president or prime minister since 1999, still dominating ahead of the next presidential election in 2024.
Putin has yet to say whether he will run. He was due to speak on Monday after 1000 GMT.