Russia set to vote in key regional polls
Sunday, 13 September 2015 05:17
Russia set to vote in key regional polls 2.0 out of 5 based on 1 votes.
Russia set to vote in key regional pollsImage copyrightAPImage caption The elections are to choose local governors and regional parliaments across Russia

Voters across Russia are set to vote in regional elections on Sunday that are seen as a gauge of public opinion ahead of parliamentary polls next year.

About 59 million people - nearly half the population - are eligible to vote for governors and regional parliaments.

But the main opposition Democratic Coalition has only been allowed to stand in one region, Kostroma.

The coalition includes the parties of murdered politician, Boris Nemtsov, and protest leader, Alexei Navalny.

Navalny cannot run for office as he is serving a suspended prison sentence in an embezzlement case that he argues was fabricated.

The Duma has been stripped of any real opposition under President Vladimir Putin, whose approval rating remains consistently high.

The elections will reveal the mood of Russians after more than a year of financial hardship caused mostly by low oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow's alleged military role in Ukraine.

Opposition struggles with smears and isolation

Image copyrightAPImage caption Opposition leader Alexei Navalny (centre) says he expects "major falsifications"

The Democratic Coalition's campaign has not been easy - with minimal coverage on the state media and accusations that they are working for the US, reports the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Russia.

Coalition candidates were barred from participating in legislative contests in the Kaluga, Magadan, and Novosibirsk regions.

The opposition say this was because of technicalities cited by officials in a politically motivated bid to prevent them from standing.

On Saturday, Navalny posted on Facebook (in Russian) about a crackdown on opposition members in Kostroma, north-east of Moscow, saying he expected "major falsifications" in Sunday's polls.

Russia's main opposition groups combined forces in April, nearly two months after the murder of Mr Nemtsov, who was shot dead while walking with his girlfriend near the Kremlin.

The coalition, campaigning under Mr Nemtsov's party name Parnas, hopes the the regional elections will be a springboard for the 2016 national parliamentary vote.

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