Russian election chief calls off vote in Moscow suburb

AP News
Posted: Apr 20, 2016 7:38 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — The new chief of the Russian Election Commission on Wednesday called off a vote for the local legislature in a Moscow suburb, responding to allegations of fraud.

Ella Pamfilova on Wednesday cited concern about widespread early voting but stopped short of calling it fraud.

The decision came a day after four candidates who are associates of anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny announced they were standing down in the face of what they described as electoral fraud during early voting. The candidates documented hundreds of people with recent voter registration who were bused to the village to vote. The number of people who turned out to vote could be equivalent to 30 percent of the possible turnout, the campaigners said.

Navalny welcomed the decision which he said was a result of his allies' boycott.

"It was a right political decision to demand the election be scrapped," he said on his blog. "No one believed it would be possible except us, and our guys did it."

Navalny's candidates got registered to run in the village of Barvikha after Pamfilova, a former presidential human right ombudsman was appointed last month in a sign of the Kremlin's willingness to clean up the elections. They said their goal was to test whether she would be willing to prevent election fraud.

Vote-rigging in the 2011 parliamentary elections under the notorious Election Commission chairman Vladimir Churov spilled into the biggest anti-government protests in a decade.

Under Churov, straightforward election fraud came hand in hand with election authorities refusing to register independent candidates under flimsy pretexts.

Pamfilova's decision has yet to be vetted by local election authorities, and the vote in Barvikha is now likely to be set in July.