Moscow, Sep 17 (EFE).- Polling stations opened in the European part of Russia at 8 am on Friday, nine hours after voting in the elections to the State Duma (lower house of parliament) began in the country’s Far East regions.
Russia’s parliamentary elections, in which more than 110 million Russians are eligible to vote, will be held over a three-day period until Sunday due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure was taken by the authorities to minimize risks of infections although the opposition alleges it may open the door to voter fraud.
Russians must elect the Duma’s 450 members: half via party list voting and half through single-member plurality voting.
According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), more than 5,800 candidates from 14 parties, including 10 independent candidates, are running in these elections.
Moreover, as in last year’s constitutional referendum, 2.6 million Russians will be able to cast their vote electronically in Moscow and six other regions of the country.
Also voting will be Russian citizens of the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, as well as the Donbas region of Ukraine, which Kiev considers a violation of international law and its national legislation.
In addition to the lawmakers of the lower house of the Russian parliament, voters will elect 12 heads of federal entities and 39 regional parliaments.
The ruling United Russia party is seeking to retain its legislative majority – more than 330 seats – which it secured in 2016 with 334 seats.
The latest poll by the state-owned Russia Public Opinion Research Center(VTsIOM) showed United Russia with a majority of intended votes (29.3 percent), followed by the Communist Party with 16.6 percent.
Also in the mix is the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party and the social democratic political party, Just Russia, as well as the newly formed New People party.
With the exception of the liberal Yabloko party, the extra-parliamentary opposition led by Alexei Navalny, imprisoned in February for two and a half years, is not participating in the elections.
For the most part, radical opposition candidates failed to register for the elections due to various reasons, from charges of extremism to owning off-shore assets.
According to the CEC, only 250 foreign observers, mostly from former Soviet republics, will monitor the elections.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights refused to monitor the parliamentary elections in the face of Russia’s decision to reduce the number of observers from 500 to 60. EFE