A regional election in Russia’s Far East will be re-run, the local election commission said on Thursday, dealing a rare blow to the Kremlin after allegations the vote had been rigged in its candidate’s favor. The ruling, in Russia’s Primorsky Region which includes the Pacific port of Vladivostok, 6,400 km (4,000 miles) east of Moscow, came a day after Russia’s top election official recommended that the election be re-run. Ella Pamfilova, head of the Central Election Commission, had not accused the Kremlin-backed candidate, Andrei Tarasenko, of orchestrating the vote-rigging, but had said that a raft of irregularities had been identified, including ballot stuffing and vote buying.
“We believe that in the circumstances it is not possible to reliably understand the result of the will of the people, which means we can’t declare either of the candidates elected,” Tatyana Gladkikh, the chairwoman of the local election commission, said on Thursday. The new election must be held within three months of the annulled Sept. 16 vote.
Tarasenko’s struggles and three other reversals in elections to select regional governors this month amount to the worst showing for Kremlin-backed candidates since 2012.
Though there is no immediate threat to the ruling United Russia party’s grip on power, it suggests growing discontent over living standards, not least plans to delay the retirement age, which have also been reflected in declining popularity ratings for President Vladimir Putin.