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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

United Russia Declared Big Winner in Elections

United Russia won a landslide victory in weekend elections in Moscow and dozens of other locales around the country in the first vote of what President Dmitry Medvedev had called “new democratic times.”

Medvedev gave his stamp of approval to the elections and said they gave United Russia the legitimacy needed to run both the legislative and executive branches of government.

“United Russia’s victory in the regions proves its authority and right to form bodies of the executive branch in the regions,” Medvedev said at a meeting with senior United Russia officials.

Kremlin-sponsored legislation gives the party that controls a region’s legislature a greater say in the appointment of top regional officials.

United Russia’s stunning victory disappointed those who had hoped that Medvedev’s announcement in August that “new democratic times are beginning” would lead to some political competition. Medvedev also warned United Russia over the summer that its monopoly on power would not last forever.

But United Russia managed to not only keep its dominant position in the Moscow City Duma but expand it, according to the Central Elections Commission. The party, whose list was headed by Mayor Yury Luzhkov, got 66 percent of the vote, giving it 32 seats in the City Duma. The other three seats will go to the Communist Party, which garnered 13 percent and had four seats in the last Duma. The other four parties in the race, including Yabloko, which had two seats in the last Duma, failed to clear the 7 percent threshold.

“I regret that only two parties will be represented in the City Duma,” Luzhkov told journalists Monday.

He said the shift would increase the role of the Public Chamber and Moscow’s ombudsman.

He indicated that, as expected, he would not resign to take a seat in the City Duma. He also said he had no plans to leave office, despite speculation that the Kremlin was pressing him to quit.

“The time hasn’t come yet. When it comes, I will announce it myself without any reminders and questions from those who would like to see a less independent Moscow,” Luzhkov said.

Analysts expressed surprise at United Russia’s strong showing despite the economic crisis.

“The Moscow elections were surprisingly successful for United Russia.” said Alexei Titkov, an analyst with the Institute of Regional Politics. “United Russia was initially a strong participant, and the opposition did everything possible [to win votes].”

Yabloko reported numerous violations and said it would challenge the results.

“There aren’t any real election results for us to talk about,” said Lilia Shibanova, director of the independent election-monitoring group Golos, which also reported serious violations.

The Communist and Liberal Democratic parties also disputed the results, and Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov called the Moscow vote “undemocratic.”

“Vote counting for the Moscow City Duma was held in an undemocratic way,” said Mironov, who is the speaker of the Federation Council and a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who heads United Russia.

Putin, who toured Vladivostok on Monday en route to China, made no public comments about the elections.

Opposition activists rallied against the vote at an unsanctioned protest in Moscow’s Pushkin Square late Monday, and police detained at least 30 people, Interfax reported.

Central Elections Commission chief Vladimir Churov on Monday derided complaints about violations as “improper hysteria.”

His commission said Moscow turnout was nearly 35 percent, compared with 30.68 percent in the last elections in 2005. Similar turnout was reported in nearly all 76 of the country’s 83 regions where mayoral and regional elections were held. Churov said late Sunday that the turnout was lower than expected because of a Russia-Germany football match held Saturday, and many people had decided to sleep on Sunday instead of vote.

The exceptions were in Chechnya and Ingushetia, which held their first municipal elections and reported turnout of more than 80 percent. Some villages reported 100 percent turnout.

The only serious incident was reported in the Dagestani city of Derbent, population 63,000, where only 23 of 36 polling stations opened Sunday after local election officials said they had received threats and could not guarantee security. Voters protested, and presidential envoy Vladimir Ustinov flew to the city to restore order.

Kommersant reported that the incumbent Mayor Feliks Kaziakhmedov, of United Russia, had ordered the OMON riot police to prevent voters from entering the polling stations to make sure that his rival lost.

Kaziakhmedov won 68 percent of the vote with a reported turnout of about 55 percent. The local election committee said it had registered no serious violations on election day.

In Volgograd, two candidates of African descent who caused a stir by running for head of a rural district lost to United Russia-backed Sergei Tikhonov. Joaquim Crima, a Guinea-Bissau native, was dubbed as “Russia’s Obama,” and was joined in the race by Filipp Kondratyev, who has a Ghanaian father and a Russian mother.