Putin's party in poster scandal ahead of polls
The party of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin on Tuesday insisted it was abiding by the law after its posters for parliamentary polls turned out to be almost identical to those of the election watchdog.
On December 4 Russia is holding key parliamentary elections which are seen as a dress rehearsal of March presidential polls in which Prime Minister Putin is expected to reclaim his old Kremlin job.
The Moscow City Election Commission overseeing the polls in the Russian capital has had hundreds of billboards installed around Moscow to encourage Russians to vote.
But those of Putin's party United Russia which appeared this week on the Moscow streets are almost identical, in what might be construed as a blatant attempt to plant a subliminal message in the mind of voters.
The poll watchdog's posters decked in Russia's national colors of blue, red and white feature silhouettes of several generations of people including children, parents with a baby carriage and an elderly couple with a cane.
"For life, for people," read the red letters above a silhouette of the city.
The United Russia posters feature the very same silhouettes with the same city view in the background. The posters say in blue and red letters: "(We) develop/For life, for people". They call on Russians to vote for number 6, the ruling party's number on the ballot.
"How everything coincided!" quipped independent broadsheet Vedomosti.
Officials appeared unfazed however. The spokesman for the Moscow Election Commission Dmitry Reut denied the existence of violations on the part of the watchdog.
"We are not urging people to vote for the United Russia," he told AFP.
Senior United Russia party member Valery Ryazansky, speaking on Echo of Moscow radio, admitted that the posters were indeed similar but insisted that a "special commission" had approved the party's posters.
The controversy comes as approval ratings of the United Russia party show signs of crumbling just ahead of the polls.
A poll of 1,600 by the independent Levada Center released on Tuesday showed Putin's party lost nine percentage points in the span of one week and now stands at 51 percent, one of the party's lowest approval ratings in years.
© 2011 AFP