The United Russia party put on an impassive face as its less-than-desired results were reported Sunday. “Resting on this result, we will be able to secure a stable development of our state,” Putin said at a briefing for Russian reporters.
In the evening, exit polls published by government-friendly pollsters predicted United Russia would win 48.5 percent; the Communist Party, 19.8 percent; A Just Russia, 12.8 percent; and the Liberal Democratic Party, 11.42 percent. Early Monday, the Central Election Commission reported 49.9 percent for United Russia, with about 70 percent of the votes counted.
Reports of irregularities also flowed in. Yelena Panfilova, who runs the Russian office of Transparency International, said she saw a man ahead of her in line stuffing absentee ballots into a ballot box, the Interfax news agency reported.
There was extensive evidence of official panic as the election approached. Over the past week, an intense and coordinated attack was launched against Golos, the nation’s only independent election monitor. On Friday, a television station with ties to the Kremlin attempted to discredit Golos because it receives funds from the United States and Europe. The same day, a court found it guilty of violating election laws.
The campaign, however, seemed to introduce Golos to those who had never heard of it and anger those who had. “They are blamed for receiving money from abroad,” Dmitry Muratov, editor of Novaya Gazeta, told Echo Moskvy radio. “Well, it is always better to receive foreign funds than steal money from the Russian national budget.”On Sunday in Moscow, protesters were arrested before they could assemble and reports surfaced of hospital patients being given filled-out ballots while doctors watched to ensure they cast them. Demonstrators were arrested in St. Petersburg.
Early Saturday, customs officials at the airport detained Lilia Shibanova, executive director of Golos, as she was returning from a trip and confiscated her laptop.
“These elections are the dirtiest ever,” she said Sunday. “It cannot go on like this.”
Early Sunday, the Golos Web site was shut down by hackers, along with several sites operated by independent information providers, including that of Echo Moskvy radio — its Web site went back up after the voting ended.
When the Golos Web site disappeared, so did its online map that registered complaints of election violations. Employees moved to an independent press center, where they took complaints by phone.
By 8 p.m. Sunday, 2,058 calls had come in, with many complaints about the misuse of absentee ballots, monitors barred from polling places and sightings of young people being bused from one polling station to another to vote more than once.
The count was expected to be complete by Monday, but it appeared that a longtime opposition party, Yabloko, would once again fail to clear the 7 percent threshold for seats in the Duma. Still, opposition leaders were feeling victorious.
“The end of this regime will, in fact, start on December 5,” said Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister and current opposition politician whose party was not allowed to take part in the vote.