Limited early results in Russia indicate that the pro-Kremlin party is leading

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Early results from Sunday’s Russian parliamentary elections showed that the pro-Kremlin-dominated party was in the lead. However, it is not clear if it will maintain the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution.

This election is widely considered to be an important part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to consolidate his power before the 2024 presidential elections. In which the State Duma (or parliament) will be crucial, the election is widely viewed as an important part.

According to the elections commission, results from approximately 10% of country’s polling stations gave United Russia 38% of the vote for 225 deputies allocated by party lists. The elections commission reported that another 225 legislators will be elected by individual races. Early results indicated that United Russia candidates were leading in 130 single-constituency seat seats.

After Russian authorities declared that organizations associated to Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the Kremlin’s most prominent foe to be extremists, there was no opposition presence in Sunday’s election. Numerous reports of voting-related violations were also reported, including ballot stuffing.

Early results revealed that three other parties almost always supported Putin’s return to the State Duma. The New People party was also formed last year, and is widely considered a Kremlin-sponsored initiative.

25% of party-list votes went to the Communist Party, which is a significant improvement on the 13% it received in the 2016 election. United Russia received 54% in the last election, which is a significant dropoff from its previous support of 13%.

Putin expressed his hope that the United Russia party would continue its dominance in parliament. It held 334 of the 450 seats. Despite being Putin’s main power base, the party is much less popular than Putin himself.

This year’s election saw the majority of opposition politicians and activists banned from running after Russian authorities launched a massive effort suppressing protests and dissent.

Since Friday morning, reports of ballot violations by Russian media, opposition politicians, and election observers have been flooding in. The unexpectedly long lines at Moscow’s polling stations and in other cities were the result of unplanned queues. Reporters were told by some that they were forced to vote, sometimes by their employers.

Multiple videos showing ballot stuffing were shared on social media over the weekend. Some regions reported incidents of “carousel vote” — where voters cast multiple ballots at different polling stations — and clashes between poll workers and election monitors.

Russia’s Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova has confirmed at least eight instances of ballot-stuffing within six Russian regions. The commission has invalidated 7,465 ballots across 14 regions.

Authorities have launched a massive crackdown on opposition politicians, and the Smart Voting strategy that Navalny devised to consolidate the protest vote against United Russia. Smart voting increases the chances of opposition candidates winning. It tells voters in particular areas which candidates have the best chance at defeating those backed by the Kremlin. Authorities have attempted to eliminate it from the internet many times.

Navalny has blocked approximately 50 websites, including one that focuses on Smart Voting.

Under pressure from the authorities , Apple & Google pulled an app that featured Smart Voting from their online stores for Russian users. Pavel Durov (the founder of Telegram), also blocked access to a chatbot dedicated to Smart Voting on Saturday. YouTube also blocked access to videos that listed the Smart Voting candidates.

Allies of Navalny attributed the Kremlin’s inability to get the desired result to the Kremlin’s crackdown on Smart Voting, and reports of voting violations.

“Either they are so insecure and fear Smart voting so much… or the ratings have been even worse than we have seen or they failed to control their nerves — but the level blatant falsifications has turned out to be more than in 2011,” Leonid Volkov (Navalny’s top strategist) wrote on Facebook.

Reports of vote rigging in Russia’s 2011 parliament elections sparked months of antigovernment and anti-Putin demonstrations.