Pro-Kremlin party officially handed supermajority in Duma

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian election authorities on Friday officially announced the final results of last week’s parliamentary vote, in which the Kremlin’s party retained its supermajority amid widespread reports of violations and incidents of voter fraud.

Russia’s Central Election Commission has declared the election of the new parliament, or the State Duma, “conclusive and valid,” commission chair Ella Pamfilova said.

The results gave United Russia 49.8% of the vote for the 225 seats apportioned by parties. Another 225 lawmakers are chosen directly by voters, and United Russia candidates won 198 of those races. In all, the Kremlin-backed party, which has dominated the parliament for years, will get 324 out of 450 seats.

Three other parties that usually toe the Kremlin line will take most of the remaining seats, along with the New People party, which was formed last year and is regarded by many as a Kremlin-sponsored project. Individual candidates from three more parties each won a seat, along with five independents.

According to Pamfilova, voter turnout at the election — which this year lasted three days due to the coronavirus pandemic — stood at 51.7%, and a total of 40,605 ballots have been invalidated. “We did everything we could, based on our understanding of honor and conscience, everything we could, and it’s up to you to judge,” Pamfilova said.

The vote, which was largely seen as part of President Vladimir Putin’s effort to cement his grip on power ahead of the 2024 presidential election, excluded most opposition politicians and was marred by numerous reports of ballot-stuffing and other incidents of voter fraud.

The opposition has denounced the results. Kremlin critics pointed to a number of individual Moscow races as evidence of alleged tampering. In those races, Kremlin-backed candidates were losing until the results of online voting, which was an option in Moscow and several other regions, came in Monday — and they suddenly shot ahead.

Candidates that lost in these races — including those from the Communist Party, the second biggest political force in the Duma with 57 seats — announced joining forces on Thursday to contest the results of online balloting in the Russian capital, in which nearly 2 million votes had been cast.

The Communist Party has called for a rally in Moscow on Saturday and was urged by the authorities Friday to remove the announcements from its website, otherwise it would be blocked — pressure that a party with seats in the parliament and which backs many of the Kremlin’s policies has rarely faced before.

Several party members have been detained this week after a small rally it staged on Monday over the election results.