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Violations Reported in Russian Election09/18 10:31

   

   MOSCOW (AP) -- The head of Russia's second-largest political party is 
alleging widespread violations in the election for a new national parliament, 
in which his party is widely expected to gain seats.

   Communist Party head Gennady Zyuganov said on Saturday -- the second of 
three days of voting in the election -- that police and the national elections 
commission must respond to reports of "a number of absolutely egregious facts" 
including ballot-stuffing in several regions.

   The Golos election-monitoring movement and independent media also reported 
violations including vote-buying and lax measures for guarding ballots at 
polling stations.

   The United Russia party, which is diligently loyal to President Vladimir 
Putin appears certain to retain dominance in the State Duma, the lower house of 
parliament, but some projections suggest it could lose its current two-thirds 
majority, which is enough to change the constitution. The Communists are 
expected to pick up the biggest share of any seats lost by United Russia.

   Although the Communists generally support Kremlin initiatives in the 
parliament, their gaining seats would be a loss of face for United Russia. The 
Communists are seen as potentially benefiting from the "Smart Voting" program 
promoted by the team of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which aims 
to undermine United Russia by advising voters on which candidates are in the 
strongest position to defeat the dominant party's candidates.

   However, it's unclear how effective the program will be after Apple and 
Google removed Smart Voting apps from their stores under Kremlin pressure. 
Authorities previously blocked access to its website. Navalny's organizations 
have been declared extremist, blocking anyone associated with them from running 
for office, thereby eliminating most significant opposition from the election.

   Zyuganov said the party has tallied at least 44 incidents of voting 
violations and that the party has applied for permits to hold protests during 
the week after the voting ends Sunday.

   On Saturday, the news website Znak said a resident of the Moscow region was 
offering 1,000 rubles ($15) to people who voted for United Russia. The 
publication said it called the man, who said the payment would come if the 
caller provided evidence of his vote through a messaging app.

   The Golos movement cited reports from its observers and local news media of 
an array of apparent violations, including ballots being stored overnight in a 
cabinet with a broken door and of envelopes for storing ballot tallies 
appearing to have been opened and then resealed.

   On the first day of voting Friday, unexpectedly long lines formed at some 
polling places, and independent media suggested this could show that state 
institutions and companies were forcing employees to vote.

   Media in St. Petersburg reported on suspected cases of "carousel voting," in 
which voters cast ballots at several different polling stations. An AP video 
journalist saw the same voters, believed to be military school students, at two 
different polling stations; one of them said the group had first gone to the 
wrong polling station.

   A local elections commission member posted video in which a man appeared to 
have tried to cast several ballots and then was confronted by a poll worker. 
The man in the video said he had obtained his ballots at a subway station.

 
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