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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Liberals Fear Rigging in By-Election

Presidential Press ServicePutin speaking with local election officials while obtaining his ballot Sunday.
Supporters of liberal candidate Victor Shenderovich warned of possible vote rigging through the use of absentee ballots from Turkmenistan as residents in Moscow's Universitetsky and Preobrazhensky districts voted in State Duma by-elections Sunday.

As of 4 p.m., turnout in both single-mandate districts was greater than the 25 percent of registered voters that is required for the elections to be valid, city election commission chief Valentin Gorbunov said, Interfax reported.

Vasily Bokov, an official at Shenderovich's campaign headquarters, said that the candidate's supporters had been prevented from observing the vote count at the Russian Embassy in Turkmenistan, where 37,000 expatriate Russians are registered as voters in the Universitetsky district. "We expect that 20,000 votes will be rigged," Bokov said.

Under the country's absentee ballot system, votes of expatriate Russians in France, the Czech Republic and Turkmenistan are counted in the Universitetsky district in southwestern Moscow.

Shenderovich has accused his main rival in the district, United Russia-backed film director Stanislav Govorukhin, of breaking the law by campaigning under the guise of advertising his new film, "Not By Bread Alone," billboards for which are up all over the city.

Election officials gave permission for Shenderovich's observers to fly to Turkmenistan only after the day's last plane to Ashgabat had already taken off on Saturday, Bokov said.

A man who picked up the telephone at Govorukhin's campaign headquarters refused to comment, saying that staff would only take questions about the elections after polling stations closed at 8 p.m.

Shenderovich and Govorukhin are the most well known of the 12 candidates in the district, considered one of the most liberal in the country. The district is also home to several senior government officials, including President Vladimir Putin, who voted Sunday at Polling Station No. 2,039 at the main building of the Russian Academy of Sciences on Leninsky Prospekt.

On Sunday, Govorukhin's celebrity appeared to be a draw even for some voters who expressed antipathy toward United Russia.

Mechanic Alexander Grinchik, 49, said he voted for Govorukhin despite his disgust for United Russia. Grinchik said he voted for the Communists in the City Duma elections, which were also held Sunday.

"I voted for him because he's someone we can trust," Grinchik said, walking out of Polling Station No. 2,566, near the Prospekt Vernadskogo metro station. He then recited a list of films directed by Govorukhin.

In the Preobrazhensky district in eastern Moscow, the seven candidates include Vladimir Kvachkov, a jailed former intelligence officer who faces charges of planning to assassinate Unified Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais in an attack in March; and Sergei Shavrin, a retired Federal Security Service officer nominated by United Russia.

Anatoly Savenkov, 68, a retired engineer at a radio equipment research institute, said he voted for Kvachkov because he heard about his criminal case. "There's nobody else there to defend the interests of ordinary people," he said outside polling stations Nos. 940 and 941, which were located in a school near the Shchyolkovskaya metro station. "I want someone to stop arrogant people like Chubais ... and take them down a peg or two."

Staff Writer Carl Schreck contributed to this report.