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 Association of Independent Municipal and Regional Deputies said Central Election Commission Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova failed to ensure "fair and transparent" elections, and "in fact your [Pamfilova's] actions led to the exact opposite result."
"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 Central Election Commission announced on September 21 that, with all of the votes counted, the Kremlin-backed United Russia party won 49.82 percent of the ballots, well ahead of its closest rival, the Communist Party with 18.93 percent.
The preliminary final results of the three-day election, which was marred by the lack of a significant opposition presence, showed United Russia candidates took 112 seats in the State Duma through voting by party list and 198 seats through voting in single-mandate districts nationwide. That gives the party a comfortable two-thirds majority in the 450-seat Duma. Such a supermajority is required for making changes to the constitution.
The election, held over the weekend alongside elections for regional governors and local legislative assemblies, was also widely seen as an important part of Putin's efforts to cement his grip on power ahead of a possible run in the 2024 presidential vote, making control of the State Duma key.
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.
The petition 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."
"We, citizens of the Russian Federation, municipal deputies, deputies of different levels and independent observers, demand that you, Ella Alexandrovna [Pamfilova], stop the lawlessness and return, when making your decisions, to the legal field of modern democracy," says the petition, which attracted almost 3,700 signatures within the first few hours of being posted online.