Russians living in the far eastern region of Primorsky Krai elected a Kremlin-backed candidate for governor on Sunday after a previous election was thrown out due to voting fraud.
Local election officials said the acting governor of the region, Oleg Kozhemyako, won 61.4 percent of the votes after 95 percent of the ballots had been counted in the Russian region on the Sea of Japan. The election commission said second place went to Andrei Andreichenko of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party with 25.5. percent of the vote.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called Kozhemyako on Sunday evening to congratulate him on the victory.
Kozhemyako was tapped by President Vladimir Putin to stand in as governor of Primorsky Krai and run in the election in place of the former acting governor, Andrei Tarasenko.
Tarasenko, who represented the ruling United Russia party during a gubernatorial election in September, appeared ready to lose that vote to a Communist challenger, Andrei Ishchenko. With 98 percent of the ballots counted, Ishchenko led with almost 50 percent of the votes. But by the time 99 percent of ballots were counted, Tarasenko had seen a miraculous comeback and allegedly won the election by over 7,500 votes.
In the face of growing outrage in Primorsky Krai over suspected voting fraud, the Russian Central Election Commission quickly moved to annul the results, claiming they were impossible to verify as both sides accused the other of improprieties.
Tarasenko was not among the four candidates who competed in Sunday’s gubernatorial vote.
Ishchenko, the Communist who likely won the September vote, did not run either on Sunday. His party decided to boycott the repeated vote and he failed to gather the required signatures for an independent bid for governor.
The election commission reported a 39.6 percent voter turnout for Sunday’s election, up from 29.2 percent in September.