Early results and an exit poll show that Russia’s ruling political party will score an easy victory in parliamentary elections but likely by a smaller margin than in previous elections, with a rise in opposition showing that President Vladimir Putin’s party has lost some ground. Thirteen percent of ballots have been counted so far; an exit poll published by Russia’s RIA news agency projected that United Russia will win just over 45 percent of the vote—more than enough to hand them the win. If that number is accurate, though, it would be a more fragile result than the previous election, held in 2016, when the party nabbed 54 percent of the vote.
The elections were marred by a brutal crackdown by the Kremlin, which outlawed imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s movement, banned his supporters from running for parliament, and labeled critical media outlets and NGOs as “foreign agents.” But United Russia was significantly weakened this cycle anyway, as allegations of ballot stuffing and fraud circulated on social media. Navalny’s allies have been outspoken in their criticism of Putin and his government regardless, going so far as to organize a tactical voting campaign in an attempt to consolidate the opposition vote.