‘Empty Elections’

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Russia’s ruling party won most of the votes in elections held in occupied Ukrainian territories, in a poll that Ukraine and Western countries decried as a sham, the Associated Press reported.

Russian election officials announced Monday that lawmakers from the United Russia party came out on top in the four Ukrainian regions illegally annexed by Moscow last year – namely, Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia. They added that ruling party legislators also lead in the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The election in the occupied territories took place as Russia was holding nationwide polls in its 16 regions: These included local legislatures, governor races, city and municipal council elections, and a few vacant seats in Russia’s lower house of parliament.

In Moscow, the United Russia party emerged victorious, securing the reelection of Sergei Sobyanin as mayor with more than 76 percent of the vote. Voter turnout averaged 43.5 percent across all Russian territories and the occupied Ukrainian regions.

The election took place as the Russian government is trying to tighten its control of those annexed territories amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The vote in the Ukrainian regions was marked by attacks, with pro-Kremlin officials blaming guerrilla forces loyal to Kyiv.

Western nations condemned the elections as a violation of international law, calling it an “attempt by Russia to legitimize or normalize its illegal military control and attempted annexation of parts of Ukrainian territories.”

The Ukrainian government, meanwhile, called them “fake elections” and urged other countries not to recognize the results.

Meanwhile, analyst Abbas Gallyamov described them as “empty elections,” noting that politicians did not campaign on the key issue of the Ukraine war.

Gallyamov, a former speechwriter for Russian President Vladimir Putin, explained that many candidates avoided the topic: either out of fear of losing votes for supporting the conflict, or the threat of facing legal repercussions for standing against it.

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