MOSCOW: European officials have denounced Russia’s parliamentary elections as an undemocratic exercise engineered by the President, Vladimir Putin, and his party.
“Neither a free, fair nor democratic election,” said a German Government spokesman. “Steered democracy,” said the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt. “Not a level playing field,” added the European observer mission.
With Mr Putin’s second presidential term drawing to a close, Russians on Sunday voted for the lower house of parliament, delivering a landslide victory to his United Russia party.
The final tally gave the party 64.1 per cent of the vote, about 315 seats in the 450-seat State Duma, enough votes to amend the constitution, which could allow Mr Putin to remain in power beyond his official, enforced, retirement date next year.
If, instead, United Russia chooses a pliant alternative candidate, Mr Putin is likely to emerge as prime minister or leader of the party.