Kremlin suffers losses in Moscow city vote after protests - GulfToday

Kremlin suffers losses in Moscow city vote after protests


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands at a polling station in Moscow. Reuters

Pro-Kremlin candidates suffered major losses in a Moscow city election, results showed Monday, following a police crackdown on a wave of anti-government protests over the summer.

But Kremlin-backed candidates dominated in other local and regional elections held outside of the capital at the weekend.

Demonstrations broke out in Moscow after top opposition figures were barred from standing in the city vote, but they widened in scope after a harsh response from authorities.

Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev stands in front of a member of a local electoral commission. Reuters

Kremlin-backed candidates previously held 38 of the Moscow assembly's 45 seats, but after the Sunday election that figure was down to 25.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who called the first summer protests after his allies were kept off the ballot paper, put the losses down to his "Smart Voting" plan.

The campaign called on Muscovites to back the politician, whatever their affiliation, most likely to beat a pro-Kremlin candidate.

The beneficiaries were the Communist Party -- which took 13 seats, up from five -- as well as the liberal Yabloko party and the left-leaning Just Russia, which each took three places.

The shake-up in the city parliament comes amid a stagnating economy, declining living standards and a fall in President Vladimir Putin's approval ratings.

"We fought for this together. Thanks to everyone for their contribution," Navalny said on Twitter following the Moscow results.

A woman exits a polling booth before casting at a polling station during a city council election. AP

Lyubov Sobol, who emerged as a protest leader after she was blocked from running in the election, said the vote would go "down in history thanks to the courage and perseverance of Muscovites, and the cowardice and meanness" of the city administration.

Collapse in popularity

But Viktor Seliverstov, a lawmaker in the ruling United Russia party, played down the role of Navalny's scheme.

"I don't see the effect of this so-called tactical voting. Communists aren't smart voting -- Communists are Communists," he told Russian media.

United Russia, formed in 2001 to support Putin, has seen its popularity collapse in recent years.

In Moscow, none of the pro-Kremlin candidates ran under its banner, instead presenting themselves as "independents".

Kremlin-backed candidates won in all 16 regions where there were elections for governor.

Alexander Beglov, the gaffe-prone acting governor of Saint Petersburg, was elected to lead Russia's second city after his main rival controversially withdrew a week before the vote.

Agence France-Presse

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