Putin’s party heads for victory amid vote fraud claims

 Putin’s party heads for victory amid vote fraud claims

President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party looks set for another big win in the country’s parliamentary elections, despite a drop in support.

The party claimed victory a few hours after the polls closed on Sunday evening.

Putin’s most vocal critics were barred from running in the election, and candidates who were allowed to stand were heavily vetted.

There have been numerous allegations of ballot stuffing and forced voting.

But Russia’s electoral commission rejected claims of widespread irregularities.

Initial results showed that with 64% of votes counted, United Russia had won nearly 48%, followed by the Communist Party with about 21%.

On Sunday night a senior United Russia official, Andrei Turchak, congratulated a crowd of supporters in Moscow on what he described as a clean and honest victory.

The partial results show that despite Mr Putin’s party easily retaining its majority in parliament, it did lose some ground. In 2016, the party won 54% of the vote.

The Communists saw their support grow by 8%.

Concerns over living standards and allegations of corruption from jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have likely affected support for Mr Putin’s party.

But he remains popular with many Russians who credit him with standing up to the West and restoring national pride.