Putin ally re-elected Moscow mayor amid mass arrests


MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ally has been overwhelmingly re-elected Moscow’s mayor, officials said Monday, following a poll overshadowed by pension protests and mass arrests.

However, the ruling party suffered a major blow in several regions as Russians voted to elect governors and local lawmakers in a nationwide day of polls on Sunday.

The United Russia party recorded its worst performance in regional elections in more than a decade as voters registered their anger over a controversial reform set to raise the state retirement age and economic conditions deteriorating under Western sanctions.

Election day was marred by the arrests during protests against the hugely unpopular pension reform, with more than 1,000 –including journalists — detained, according to an independent monitor.

Putin thanked Russians for voting, saying the election results underscored their trust in the authorities.

“On the whole the election campaign was conducted decently, with a pretty high voter turnout,” Putin told officials in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.

Sergei Sobyanin, mayor of the Russian capital since 2010, won a predictable victory with 70.02 percent of the vote. Turnout stood at 30.8 percent.

In 2013, Sobyanin barely escaped a second-round run-off after a strong challenge from Putin’s top critic Alexei Navalny, who unexpectedly picked up over a quarter of the ballots.

This time serious opposition candidates were kept off the ballot in favour of the incumbent.

Ahead of the vote a Moscow court jailed Navalny for 30 days after he announced plans to stage a rally against pension reform on election day.

The ruling party suffered several major upsets.

In the far eastern city of Khabarovsk and in the Primorye, Khakasia and Vladimir regions, gubernatorial elections will go to a second round after United Russia candidates failed to win 50 percent of the vote.

Communists beat candidates of the ruling party in elections to the regional parliaments of Khakasia, Irkutsk and Ulyanovsk regions.