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United Russia ‘playing with fire’ in bid to rig election, communists warn

RUSSIAN communists have accused the ruling United Russia party of “playing with fire” by rigging the weekend’s parliamentary elections, saying its “cheating” tactics would provoke the opposition onto the streets.

The party is projected to bag its biggest vote since the 1990s at over 20 per cent – second place to United Russia on around 50 per cent, a decline on recent performances. Third place is likely to go to the far-right Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennady Zyuganov said his party – which is the largest opposition group in the Duma – had mobilised 300,000 election observers across the country and that these were reporting “widespread violations.”

He reported “ballot stuffing” in Kletnyansky district and similar violations in the greater Moscow, Saratov and Samara regions, as well as reports of public-sector employees being marched by their bosses to polling booths to vote for United Russia, the electoral vehicle which supports President Vladimir Putin.

KPRF deputy chair Dmitri Novikov said he had received reports of individuals voting multiple times, video surveillance inside polling booths and manipulations of the electoral roll in Kamchatka and Buryatia, two Siberian regions.

At a press conference, the KPRF announced it would be calling protests after the vote and said the violations were the culmination of a campaign in which opposition voices had been denied airtime and were suppressed.

Last week, a YouTube video by jailed far-right activist Alexei Navalny, which advised on tactical voting in different areas for candidates best placed to beat United Russia, was blocked across the country.

While United Russia is expected to retain its Duma majority, it fears falling below a two-thirds majority as this would deprive it of the numbers to enact constitutional change.

Central Elections Commission head Ella Pamfilova said that more than 6,200 ballots had been annulled in five regions due to procedural violations and ballot-stuffing.

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