Watchdog complains of pressure on Russian voters

Some Russian voters are complaining of pressure from authorities to provide more votes for the ruling pro-Kremlin party in the upcoming parliamentary elections, an independent Russian election watchdog group said Wednesday.

Alexander Kynev, chief of research for the Golos group, said that compared to the previous election four years ago there appears to be less pressure on candidates than on voters.

Golos set up a website to collect and display complaints of election law violations throughout Russia. It currently counts more than 4,000 complaints.

About a third come from voters who say they're being pressured — mostly by bosses at work or professors at universities — to vote for the ruling United Russia party.

The party is supported by President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin but its ratings have been dwindling.

Kynev said that even those who do not necessarily support the opposition parties seem to be complaining about the pressure.

United Russia won 64 percent of the vote in the 2007 Duma election, but the latest polls show the party hovering at about 50 percent.

Along with Medvedev and Putin, scores of government ministers, mayors and governors take part in United Russian campaigning events in their constituencies.

Under Russian law, state official must take a vacation if they want to campaign. Observers say politicians combine their everyday work and campaigning, thus abusing their dominant position in a particular region or industry.

Liliya Shibanova, Golos' executive director, said that an active role that senior government officials take in United Russia campaigning “contributes to the inequality of election participants which predetermines the outcome of the vote.”

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Online:

Golos' Map of Violations (in Russian): http://www.kartanarusheniy.ru/

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