Russia’s ruling United Russia party, which backs Russian President Vladimir Putin, has lost one-third of its seats in the Moscow parliament, near-complete data cited by domestic news agencies showed yesterday, in an awkward setback for the Kremlin.
However, the party still retained its majority in the Moscow Parliament following Sunday’s nationwide local elections, and its candidates for regional governor appeared to have won in St Petersburg and in 15 other parts of the country.
The outcome of the local elections was closely watched in Moscow after the exclusion of many opposition candidates triggered the biggest protests there in nearly a decade.
Public anger over more than five years of falling incomes and an unpopular hike in the pension age also helped fuel the Moscow protests, with the Communist Party benefiting most in Sunday’s polls from the discontent.
Putin’s spokesman told reporters the Kremlin thought United Russia had done well, despite the setback in Moscow.
“In general the election campaign across Russia was very successful for the United Russia party. It won more in some places than others, but in general for the country, the party showed its political leadership,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The Kremlin was not inclined to link the Moscow result to a protest vote, Peskov said.
Prominent opposition politician Alexei Navalny and his allies saw the Moscow poll as an opportunity to make inroads against United Russia ahead of a national parliamentary election in 2021.
Navalny had advised supporters to vote tactically for the candidates with the best chance of defeating United Russia.
He saw the results as vindicating his strategy, although other activists were unhappy that he had asked people to hold their noses and vote for parties that cooperate with the Kremlin.
United Russia was on track to control 26 of the Moscow Parliament’s 45 seats, data showed, meaning it will not have to rely on the Communists, who in any case have often voted with the ruling party on major national issues to get things done.
The Communist Party won 13 seats on Sunday, up from five, at the expense of United Russia, the data showed.
Two other opposition groups, the Yabloko Party and the Fair Russia Party, appeared to have won three each.
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