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Poor show of Vladimir Putin’s party in symbolic Moscow polls means little

Putin’s United Russia falls to 25 seats in the 45-member local assembly. But the poor performance is merely symbolic.

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New Delhi: In a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, his United Russia party has lost a third of the seats in the Moscow city council elections. Barely managing to hang on to the majority, the party has fallen to 25 seats from its previous tally of 38 in the 45-member local assembly, said a Vox report.

The electoral setback comes after a summer of unrest in Moscow, which saw thousands of citizens come out and protest against the regime’s flailing governance.

However, the loss in Sunday’s polls was more symbolic than substantive — most “real” opposition candidates had been barred from contesting the elections, and municipal polls have little bearing on the governance of Moscow.

Symbolic snub

A whole set of elections were held in Russia on 8 September, but most eyes were glued to the result of the small Moscow city council polls.

These local polls were being seen as an indicator of people’s dissatisfaction with the Putin regime. Through the summer, the Russian capital was hit by intense civilian protests and often saw brutal crackdown by the police.

As a result, Putin’s United Russia party lost 13 seats. Meanwhile, the opposition parties won 20 seats — Communist Party (13 seats), Yabloko party (4 seats), and the A Just Russia party (3 seats).

Under ordinary circumstances, this would be celebrated as a major win for the opposition parties, especially considering how Putin has consolidated enormous power. Critics argue that elections are just a formality in the Russian state.

After intense protests in Moscow, key opposition figures were disqualified by the election officials from contesting the 8 September elections. Moreover, most of the opposition parties that have won in Moscow are considered to be “systematic opposition”. Essentially, other than the liberal Yabloko party, all other parties are loyal to Kremlin.

The simultaneously held elections for regional governors saw allegations of “ballot stuffing”, but all the Kremlin-backed candidates managed to secure comfortable victories, said a Financial Times report.

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