Russian opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov said on Thursday parliamentary elections next month were being rigged against his party, meaning it would have to win up to three times more votes than legally necessary to get into parliament. Starved of air time, vilified by Kremlin-backed media, and physically attacked on the stump, Kasyanov and his allies in the People’s Freedom party or PARNAS face an uphill struggle to break into the 450-seat lower house of parliament on Sept. 18. Despite an economic crisis, the main pro-Kremlin United Russia party is expected to comfortably win the elections, which are seen as a dry run for Vladimir Putin’s presidential re-election campaign in 2018. The crisis means United Russia’s margin of victory may be slimmer than recent years however, giving PARNAS, which currently has no seats in parliament, a glimmer of hope.
If it did manage to break through, Kasyanov, who served as prime minister under President Putin from 2000-2004 and who earlier this year said he feared for his life, said his first move would be to try to impeach Putin for taking Russia “to the edge of the abyss.”
“We see that mass falsifications are already being prepared,” Kasyanov, 58, chairman of PARNAS, told a Moscow news conference on Thursday. “They (falsifications) happened in recent years, in 2011 and 2012, and they will happen this year.”