Russia's Central Election Commission has validated the results of last week's State Duma elections in the face of opposition allegations of irregularities in favor of the Kremlin-backed ruling United Russia party.
Commission Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova told a news conference on September 24 that United Russia took 324 seats in parliament -- 19 fewer than the last election in 2016 -- giving it a supermajority in the legislature, which allows it to change the constitution amid President Vladimir Putin's efforts to cement his grip on power ahead of a possible run in the 2024 presidential election.
The Communist Party took 57 seats in the vote, Pamfilova said, while A Just Russia-For Truth party received 27. The Liberal Democratic Party secured 21 seats and the New People party won 13. In addition, Rodina, the Party of Growth, and the Civic Platform will send one deputy each. Five independent candidates will also have mandates in the State Duma.
The election commission said the United Russia party won 49.82 percent of the ballots, compared to 18.93 percent for the runner-up Communist Party.
Many critics say the Kremlin carefully managed the elections from the start, with the opposition largely barred from running and a crackdown on government opponents that shows no sign of abating.
In a major blow to opposition candidates, jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny's election-guide app aimed at eroding United Russia’s stranglehold on politics disappeared from the Apple and Google online stores on September 17, the day voting started. Navalny's associates decried the move as censorship, and slammed the tech giants for bowing to Putin's pressure tactics.
Meanwhile, a group of independent municipal and regional deputies has launched a petition demanding all results from September 17-19 elections across Russia be invalidated due to numerous violations and irregularities in the voting.
"The brightest opposition politicians were not allowed to participate in the elections under far-fetched and unjust pretexts," the appeal says, adding that "multiday voting led to increased opportunities for massive falsifications."
The petition also chided Pamfilova for overseeing an election process where the rights of independent observers were "subject to constant illegal restrictions," while restrictions to reporting at polling stations aimed at transparency were shut down, making "the voting process as closed as possible and setting the entire electoral system back a decade."
The election commission chief, however, told reporters on September 24 that the "elections fairly reflect the outcome of the vote."