Two allies of stricken Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny are expected to have won local parliamentary seats in the Siberian city of Tomsk when results are released on September 14 for a variety of regional and local elections across the country that the ruling United Russia party likely dominated.
Ksenia Fadeyeva and Andrei Fateyev came out on top in two constituencies in Tomsk, the city where Navalny fell ill last month with what his doctors in Germany have said was poisoning by a rare nerve agent from the Novichok group of chemicals.
Meanwhile, the ruling United Russia party topped the polls overall in Tomsk with more than 24 percent of the vote, according to early results published by regional election officials on September 14.
In another Siberian city, Novosibirsk, the chief of Navalny's local team, Sergei Boiko, reportedly also won a seat on the city council in the September 11-13 voting.
The elections were closely watched for signs of protest against the ruling party that backs President Vladimir Putin amid mounting frustrations over declining living standards for many Russians and the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Navalny had promoted a "smart" voting strategy designed to hurt United Russia and fielded dozens of candidates for city councils in Siberia.
Citing data from exit polls and preliminary counting, Aleksei Turchak, the secretary of United Russia's general council, said late on September 13 that the ruling party was set to win majorities in all regional legislatures and that its candidates for governor were well ahead.
However, the independent monitoring group Golos cited numerous reports of irregularities in the September 13 elections, including ballot-box stuffing and ballots cast by real voters being switched.
There were also concerns that early voting allowed over the previous two days because of the coronavirus pandemic had led to irregularities.
The local elections were also seen as a crucial test for the increasingly unpopular ruling party ahead of next year’s national legislative elections.
A total of 18 regional governor posts were contested, along with voters choosing 11 regional legislatures and 22 cities voting for municipal legislatures. Four by-elections were also held for vacant seats in the lower house of the national parliament, the State Duma.
The polls came less than a month after the August 20 poisoning of Navalny, who is currently hospitalized in Berlin from the suspected ingestion of the Soviet-developed nerve toxin. His supporters blame Kremlin allies.
Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation supported candidates it saw as best placed to unseat incumbents of United Russia.