VILNIUS – Lithuanian politicians have called the Russian State Duma elections last weekend a "farce" aimed at legitimizing the country's government.
The United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, is set to maintain its parliamentary majority, despite a drop in public support, polls show. The elections were marred by the government's crackdown on those with different political views.
"As a politician, I find acceptable the opinion MEP Andrius Kubilius expressed in his report, saying that we should not deem these elections legitimate as they remind me of the elections from the Soviet times I still remember as a kid when it was just an imitation of elections," Zygimantas Pavilionis, chairman of the Lithuanian Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs, representing the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, told BNS on Monday.
He pointed out that opposition representatives were in fact blocked from running, and international organizations were not allowed to observe the vote.
"I think that for a long time already nobody believes it’s a democracy. It's a farce aimed at legitimizing various criminal acts of the Russian leadership," he said.
Matas Maldeikis, the HU-LCD chairman of the Parliamentary Group for Relations with a Democratic Russia, says the election were a "game for the legitimization of power", and the West should not recognize it.
Nevertheless, he acknowledges, such a decision will not be made as the expectation will be to maintain dialogue with Moscow.
"These were ordinary hybrid elections in Russia we have seen for many years so far. They seem like elections but in reality it's an imitation, their game for the legitimization of power. It's just preparation for the 2024 presidential elections Putin plans to be reelected, and these elections are key for him to maintain that vertical and who that he fully controls the situation," Maldeikis told BNS.
Commenting on the Russian elections, Giedrius Surplys, a member of the parliamentary CFA from the opposition Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, says "nothing surprising or new happened", adding that Lithuania should maintain its focus on this country.
"Looking at the situation in Russia and also Belarus, I just have an impression that we get distracted too easily and we are now resolving issues like ties with China, and it seems that we have forgotten Belarus' fight for democracy. It seems that the Russian election was left to take its course as nothing new was expected," Surplys told BNS.
Also on Monday, Lithuania's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on the Russian elections, stating that the election to the State Duma took place in the context of restrictions on civil and political rights.
"Russian authorities used repressive laws on "extremist organizations", "foreign agents" and "undesirable organizations" to reinforce a systemic crackdown on democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and independent media," the statement reads.
All these actions have further deteriorated political pluralism in Russia and they "demonstrate Russia’s distancing from democratic principles and cast a shadow of doubt on the transparency of the elections".
Earlier in the day, the United Russia claimed to have secured a majority of two thirds in the State Duma. The opposition, however, says the elections were rigged.