A ballot box is emptied in a polling station: The Duma election was overshadowed by many reports of manipulation
Photo: Kirill Kukhmar / imago images / ITAR-TASS
The parliamentary elections in Russia ended on Sunday as expected: with a victory for the Kremlin party United Russia, a strengthening of the communists and, above all, abundant complaints about massive violations of the electoral law.
According to a by-election poll by the Kremlin-affiliated Insomar Institute, which was quoted on state television, United Russia received 45 percent and the KPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) 21 percent of the vote. The prognosis of the institute reflects the view of the Kremlin on the election result, said Leonid Volkov, confidante of the imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny. But even after her, the gap between United Russia and Communists would have narrowed significantly. The ruling party had recently recorded increasingly poor approval ratings.
Official results were only available from 20 percent of the country's polling stations at 11 p.m. German time in the evening.
It was therefore questionable whether United Russia would regain a two-thirds majority in the lower house of the State Duma.
It is also unclear whether five instead of four parties could be represented in the future - and whether the “Smart Voting” campaign by Navalny supporters was successful in the major cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Harassment against election observers
One thing is certain: there were massive violations of voting rights. The independent voter initiative Golos received more than 4,000 complaints, significantly more than in 2016. They related, among other things, to voting with mobile urns, in some places stacks of ballot papers stuffed into the urns, but also to the forcible removal or obstruction of election observers. "The system of election commissions in some regions fights against election observers with such doggedness that we have not seen them for at least five years," reported Golos, Russia's largest and most important election observation NGO. Due to massive restrictions imposed by the Russian authorities, the OSCE refrained from sending international election observers this time.
For the first time, parliament was elected on three days.
That also made observation difficult.
In return, it made it easier to mobilize voters loyal to the Kremlin: especially on the first day of voting, there were long queues at selected polling stations.
That was the case for school no. 1231 in the Moscow district of Arbat.
While neighboring restaurants were empty, there were hours of waiting here.
People interviewed by SPIEGEL said they belonged to the Ministry of Defense, among others.
In Yekaterinburg, the employees of the mail order company Simaland voted together.
Simaland has had its staff perform mass dances several times for pro Putin videos.
Authorities had called on their employees after various reports to vote until Friday noon.
A million prizes for voters who voted in Moscow over the Internet
This time it was allowed to go to seven regions
be elected electronically.
Almost two million people made use of this option in Moscow alone.
For comparison: in the 2016 Duma election in Moscow, only 2.7 million people cast their votes.
However, the results for the capital were not initially published.
It was the first time that internet voting had been used on such a large scale.
The state had advertised them on a massive scale, in Moscow with a large lottery.
There were a million prizes - that's the equivalent of one prize for two voters - including apartments, cars and shopping vouchers.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov was one of the winners.
President Vladimir Putin, who claims to be self-isolating because of contact with Covid-infected people, was also shown for the first time when voting electronically.
Putin is anything but tech-savvy.
His wristwatch raised doubts about the authenticity of the picture - its date display showed the tenth instead of the seventeenth day of the month.
Putin "doesn't use the date display anyway, that's why the date is wrong," said his spokesman.
By bus and train from Donbass to vote
For the first time, the Duma election enabled the massive participation of hundreds of thousands of residents of the Ukrainian Donbass who have received or applied for Russian passports in recent years.
Hundreds of buses and trains brought them from the self-proclaimed separatist republics to Russian territory, to the neighboring Rostov region.
Some of them received their new Russian passports right next to the polling station.
Others voted electronically.
Repression against opposition
The Central Election Commission declared the many fraud allegations as "fabricated" on their part. As evidence, she showed alleged police recordings of a replica polling station in which "Navalny supporters" staged violations of the right to vote. The authenticity of the video can be doubted after research by the BBC, which partially identified the filmed people as actors.
Many opposition candidates were not even allowed to vote, and the opposition politician Navalny's “Smart Voting” protest election campaign on the Internet was massively hindered. The technology companies Apple and Google had deleted the associated app from their app stores for Russian users. The Russian authorities had previously put the companies under great pressure and threatened their staff in Russia with criminal proceedings. With the “Clever Vote” campaign, Navalny's supporters had given instructions on tactical voting in direct electoral districts: They had called for the strongest candidate from their point of view for the representative of the Kremlin party United Russia to vote.
The ruling party was all the more anxious to present its victory as real.
Shortly before 11 p.m. local time, United Russia officials appeared in front of the cameras in Moscow on Sunday evening.
They were celebrated by dozens of young people who waved the national flags and shouted "Russia, Russia" and "Putin, Putin".
"Honest victory - we stand together" was written on the illuminated wall behind General Secretary Andrei Turtschak as he congratulated the crowd on their "clean and honest victory".
The party chairman Dmitry Medvedev was absent, he was said to have a strong cough.
Medvedev did not appear in the election campaign because of his lack of popularity.
Collaboration: Alexander Chernyshev