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Communist leader asks Putin to call off party crackdown, voting reforms

Communist leader asks Putin to call off party crackdown, voting reforms

Leader of the Russian Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov is seen in Red Square before the Victory Day Parade in Moscow, Russia, on Jun 24, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

MOSCOW: The leader of Russia's Communist Party has accused authorities of persecuting his party's activists and carrying out reforms to the voting system that imperil political stability, in a rare message of dissent addressed to President Vladimir Putin.

Authorities cracked down on Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party last month after Moscow activists rallied twice in protest against an electronic voting system that they say robbed several of their allies of victory at a parliamentary election.

Police said the protests were illegal due to COVID-19 safety measures and authorities rejected allegations of foul play by the online voting system.

The Communist Party is ostensibly the biggest opposition force in parliament, but it often supports Putin on key areas of policy and has long been accused of soft-pedalling its opposition within a tightly-controlled system of "managed democracy".

But the party leadership's relationship with the Kremlin has been tested by anger over what activists cast as a crooked online voting system used at the election and the detention of several activists.

In an open letter published on the Communist Party's website, Zyuganov said authorities were targeting his party with pressure and that activists were being harassed by the police.

He said more than 100 people had been prosecuted over two rallies last month that he said were entirely legal.

Zyuganov called on Putin to intervene, also denouncing moves by authorities to stretch voting over three days as a COVID-19 safety measure and also to bring in online voting.

Critics say that three days of voting complicates the already difficult task of election monitoring to stop fraud and that online voting is at best non-transparent.

"This is a 'two-phase bomb' that sooner or later could blow up the stability in society that patriotic forces have created for many years," the 77-year-old Communist veteran wrote.

The Communist Party said on Tuesday that Zyuganov was expected to meet Putin on Wednesday.

Source: Reuters/ec

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