MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party will hold its congress Saturday ahead of September parliamentary elections that come amid a sweeping crackdown on the beleaguered opposition.
The gathering, which will determine the ruling party’s candidates and electoral programme for the lower house of parliament vote, comes after authorities took drastic measures to stop Russia’s main opposition politician Alexei Navalny affecting their outcome.
Barring his organisations from working in Russia, a Moscow court earlier this month branded them as “extremist”, while Putin signed legislation outlawing staff, members and sponsors of “extremist” groups from running in parliamentary elections.
Critics say the moves are aimed at ensuring that Navalny, who was jailed earlier this year for two-and-a-half years on old fraud charges he says are politically motivated, does not spoil the vote for the 68-year-old Kremlin chief and his deeply unpopular party.
In recent years, United Russia, which controls a majority of the lower house State Duma, has seen its support tumble amid economic stagnation, entrenched corruption and widespread voter fatigue.
On the eve of the party congress in Moscow, state-run pollster VTsIOM published a survey showing that 30 percent of voters support United Russia — a 10-point drop from the last State Duma elections in 2016. AFP