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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Voters Complain About a Lack of Choice

Voters at polling stations across the city expressed frustration over what they called a lack of meaningful alternatives in Sunday's Moscow City Duma elections, while those with strong preferences said that personalities mattered more to them than principles.

"There are no choices," said Nadezhda Grachyova, a pensioner, as she left Polling Station No. 226 at a school on Leningradsky Prospekt. "They all say they want what's best for the people, but who's going to say they don't?"

Grachyova said she had voted for the centrist Party of Life. "They're nothing as a party, but I know their candidate Irina Rukina personally. She's a good woman," she said.

Many voters seemed to be similarly motivated -- to the clear benefit of United Russia, whose party list is topped by Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

"I voted for our Luzhkov because I want him to stick around," said Irina Pokrovskaya, a woman in her 40s, after she and her husband voted at Polling Station No. 108, a heavily guarded school near the White House.

"Look around the city, you can see what he's done all over the place. New construction, roads -- whatever it is, at least he's doing something," Pokrovskaya said.

Voters passed through two metal detectors to enter that station, where Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov voted. Black-suited security officers patrolled the school, fingers raised to earpieces.

The mood was lighter at other downtown schools. At Polling Station No. 488 on Pervy Khoroshyovsky Proyezd, local elections commissioner Alexander Lazarev, 26, stood smart in his naval officer's uniform and handed out flowers, notebooks and pens to first-time voters.

On Skornyazhny Pereulok, voters emerged from polling stations Nos. 58 and 60 munching meat pies that were sold inside, and children in folk costumes put on a show in a hall. After voting, Yefrosinya Zinchenko, 86, displayed a note she had written to herself so she would not forget for whom to vote.

"I voted for Luzhkov," she said.

But Luzhkov's personal appeal did not win over everyone.

At School No. 840 in southern Moscow, popular songs from the 1970s blared from loudspeakers while merchants sold clothes from kiosks that had been set up that morning. Maxim Andreyev, a tall elderly man in a worn brown coat and a rabbit-fur hat, stood in the school's lobby studying the boards with the lists of parties and candidates.

"United Russia is Luzhkov, Maxim. He won't let anyone do anything bad to us," said his wife, Svetlana Andreyeva.

"I'm going to vote the Communists, I've voted for Communists for 45 years," Andreyev replied.

There and throughout the city, white strips of paper hid the line devoted to Rodina, which a court banned from the elections. A mustachioed man at Polling Station No. 226 called the court's decision "nonsense," drawing a nod from his wife. "Lots of Rodina supporters aren't voting because of that, but we came out and voted all the same. The party was crossed out on the ballot, but I checked it off anyway," the man said.

A police officer approached and said interviews had to be conducted outside, after which the couple refused to give their names and left quickly.

Also dissatisfied with his options was Roman Khavronichev, 22, a recent Moscow State University graduate.

"I wanted to vote 'against all,' and I don't have that right," Khavronichev said after a heated discussion with the local elections commissioner at Polling Station No. 108. "They told me to check off two or three choices so the ballot would be invalidated, but it's my vote, and I don't want to check off any of those choices."

The City Duma revoked the possibility of voting "against all" in the run-up to the elections. The vote is traditionally used as a sign of protest.

Local elections commission representative Vera Desyatchenkova said there had been two other such complaints at Polling Station No. 108 as of early afternoon, also by young voters.

"I'm a teacher by profession, and in my opinion this was the equivalent of children insisting, 'I want this, I want that,'" Desyatchenkova said. "There are rules that have to be followed. We can't allow anarchy."

A woman at Polling Station No. 60, who identified herself as a federal bureaucrat but said giving her name might upset her superiors, echoed the words of many voters, saying she was sure her vote did not matter. Everything has been decided in advance, and not by average voters, she said.

Asked why she had voted anyway, she said: "We have to be honest and do our duty. That's a start."

Staff Writers Nabi Abdullaev, Valeria Korchagina and Carl Schreck contributed to this report.