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Moscow mayor re-elected amid poll arrests

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President Vladimir Putin speaks with Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin (left) in the Russian capital on September 9, 2017. AFP

Moscow mayor re-elected amid poll arrests

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin’s close ally has been overwhelmingly re-elected Moscow’s mayor, election officials said on Monday, following a poll overshadowed by protests over a pension reform.

Sergei Sobyanin, mayor of the Russian capital since 2010, received 70.02 percent of the vote, according to results released by the Moscow election commission. Turnout stood at 30.8 percent.

In 2013, Sobyanin barely escaped a second-round run-off after a strong challenge from protest leader Alexei Navalny, winning 51.4 per cent of the vote, with Putin’s top critic unexpectedly picking up over a quarter of the ballots.

This time round serious opposition candidates were kept off the ballot paper in favour of the incumbent.

Ahead of the vote a Moscow court jailed Navalny for 30 days, just a couple weeks before he planned to stage a rally against a deeply controversial pension reform on election day.

The election day was overshadowed by public anger and mass arrests during nationwide protests against the hugely unpopular pension reform.

Police arrested 1,018 people, mainly in Saint Petersburg and the Urals city of Ekaterinburg, who were taking part in demonstrations in dozens of Russian cities, independent monitor OVD-info said.

In Moscow, police opened two criminal probes over violence against representatives of the authorities, the monitor said.

’Last straw’

At least 2,000 people rallied in central Moscow, an AFP correspondent said, as the capital held a mayoral election the Kremlin-backed incumbent was sure to win.

There were shouts of “Putin is a thief” and “Down with the Tsar” in the Moscow crowd.

“They’re spending money on the army in Syria, in Ukraine, for the president’s friends, but nothing for pensioners,” Olga Chenushka, a 44-year-old finance manager said.

Tatyana Rechetskaya, a 21-year-old primary school teacher, described the reforms as “the last straw, we can’t bear it”.

Plans to raise the state pension age to 60 for women and 65 for men has led to a rare outburst of public anger and seen President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings take a hit.

The hike, the first such move in nearly 90 years, would bring retirement more in line with the West, but critics point out a lower life expectancy means many will never see their pensions.

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