Sept. 9 (UPI) — The party of Russian President Vladimir Putin has suffered surprising political losses during Moscow city government elections.
The United Russia Party went into the elections holding 40 seats in Moscow’s Duma, but the number tumbled to 25 after a loss of 15 seats in the vote Sunday. The Communist Party won 13 seats and the left-leaning A Just Russia Party won three.
The party’s losses follow what’s been described as a summer of protests in the Russian capital, where election officials barred many of Putin’s most vocal critics from running for office.
Russia’s oldest liberal party, Yabloko, won in four districts.
“These weren’t real elections — lots of candidates who would clearly have won weren’t allowed to run,” Dariya Besedina, who picked up a seat, said on Twitter, adding that she plans on calling the Duma to disband.
Alexei Navalny, one of Kremlin’s main opposition leaders, called the election a referendum on Putin and his party, despite the city council having little power.
Russian authorities have attempted to break up a number of protests organized by Navalny this summer, arresting hundreds.
Vitali Shkliarov, a Russian political analyst, said Sunday was the first time legitimate opposition candidates were elected to the City Duma since the early 1990s.
In an effort to distance themselves from United Russia, many of its own members ran as “independents.” The party’s Moscow leader, Andrei Metelsky, was among those who lost their races.