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Russians called to the polls after a summer of repression


Municipal and regional elections are taking place throughout the country, following a turbulent campaign and judicial repression that the country had not seen for nearly a decade.

A member of a local election committee prepares an urn in one of the polling stations in Moscow on 6 September. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

Across the country, the Russians are going to the polls this Sunday, September 8 to elect their local representatives, after a turbulent campaign and one of the largest judicial crackdowns on protesters in nearly a decade. Municipal and regional elections are being held throughout the country following a historic exchange of 70 prisoners between Russia and Ukraine, unanimously hailed as a first step towards a resolution of the conflict between the two countries since 2014.

Read also Who are the prisoners exchanged by Russia and Ukraine?

According to analysts, the results of the vote will be closely followed in the run-up to the 2021 parliamentary elections and will help shape Russia's political future, as President Vladimir Putin begins his third decade in power.

All eyes will be on the capital, where near-weekly protests have been held this summer to protest the ousting of opposition candidates in the local parliament election. Mostly unauthorized, they resulted in nearly 2,700 arrests. Never seen since the wave of protests in 2011-2012 that preceded the return of Mr. Putin to the presidency after a prime minister's term.

In Moscow, high voltage ballot

The authorities briefly jailed virtually all opposition candidates wishing to participate in the Moscow election. Several protesters also received heavy sentences of up to four years in prison. A man was sentenced to five years in prison for a tweet calling for attacking police children.

Read also Judicial repression in the face of political protest in Moscow

In Moscow, nearly 7.2 million voters will be asked to elect 45 deputies in the city's parliament, dominated by the ruling party, United Russia, which never opposes the policies of pro-Kremlin mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

Not a single candidate, however, officially appears in the colors of the party, whose popularity has reached a historically low score. Opponent Alexei Navalny, 43, called on Muscovites to "vote smart" by supporting those best placed to beat power-affiliated candidates. Most of them are communists.

More than 5,000 elections

In all, more than 5,000 elections are held in the country this Sunday. The Russians will elect 16 regional governors and local parliamentarians from 13 regions, including Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

Outside Moscow, the campaign for the election of the governor of St. Petersburg was among the most controversial, the Kremlin supporting the unpopularly outgoing governor, Alexander Beglov.

On Saturday, Moscow wanted to be at its best by organizing numerous festivities and fireworks to celebrate the 872nd anniversary of the founding of the city, and to try to forget the events of the summer. Polling stations will be open from 8 am to 8 pm local time.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also "In Russia, the level of dissatisfaction has increased"

Source: lemonde

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