Opposition figure Alexei Navalny hails success of tactical voting campaign
Pro-Kremlin candidates have suffered losses in local elections in Moscow as Vladimir Putins biggest critic hailed the success of his campaign to encourage strategic voting.
The election was closely watched by both sides following a summer of protests in the Russian capital against the Kremlins refusal to allow candidates allied with opposition leader Alexei Navalny on to the ballot.
According to Russian media reports the Kremlin banned opposition candidates after internal polling indicated they would win at least nine seats. While the city council has few powers, analysts say the Kremlin was reluctant to allow Navalnys allies a foothold on the electoral ladder ahead of far more significant parliamentary polls due in 2021.
Navalny, 43, portrayed the city council elections as a referendum on Putin and the United Russia party that backs the president. He appealed to voters to cast their ballots for United Russias strongest challengers, even if they represented political parties that they would not normally vote for, such as the Communists.
Although United Russia retained its majority in Moscow after Sundays vote, its share of seats on the 45-seat city council was slashed from 40 to 25. The Communist party took 13 seats, up from five last time, while the A Just Russia party won three seats. Both parties are widely seen as part of the Kremlins loyal opposition.
All four candidates from Yabloko, Russias oldest liberal party, won their districts. Yabloko was the only genuinely independent party allowed on the ballot in Moscow.
United Russias candidates all ran as nominal independents in an apparent attempt to distance themselves from their increasingly unpopular party. An opinion poll published before the election by an independent thinktank indicated that it was backed by just 11% of voters in Moscow. The state-run pollster said in April that Putins party was backed by 22% of voters in the Russian capital.