Putin's United Russia Party has only 27% in polls, but controls, police, courts and airwaves

Embattled Russian opposition groups say the Kremlin has left them few options or resources ahead of the Sept. 19 election that key to President Vladimir Putin’s effort to cement his hold on power. But they still hope to erode the dominance of the ruling United Russia party in the State Duma, or parliament.

“We still want to take a lot of seats away from the United Russia so that a lot of сandidates not approved (by the authorities) become State Duma deputies and members of regional legislatures,” Leonid Volkov, top ally of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, told The Associated Press.

The Duma chosen this year will still be in place in 2024, when Putin’s current term expires and he must decide on running for re-election or choosing some other strategy to stay in power.

A poll by the independent Levada Center showed only 27% of Russians are prepared to vote for Putin’s party. But Navalny’s top allies were also slapped with criminal charges, and his Foundation for Fighting Corruption and a network of regional offices have been outlawed as extremist organizations, leaving opposition parties little ability to campaign against Putin.

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