Kremlin critic Navalny's allies say vote Communist to hurt ruling party

FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny takes part in a rally in Moscow, Russia February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny urged Russians on Wednesday to vote for the Communist Party at a parliamentary election this week, part of a tactical voting campaign meant to hurt the ruling United Russia party.

Navalny's "smart voting" campaign is designed to consolidate the votes of those who oppose United Russia, which currently holds three-quarters of the seats in the lower house of parliament and dominates Russian political life.

The initiative is one of the few remaining levers for Navalny, who is serving two-and-a-half years in prison for alleged parole violations, which he says are trumped up.

His movement was branded "extremist" in the run-up to the Sep. 17-19 vote, and a law signed by President Vladimir Putin in June barred members of such groups from running for office.

"Millions of people in Russia hate United Russia," said Navalny ally Leonid Volkov in a video accompanying a list of candidates Navalny's allies say have the best chance of defeating United Russia in different electoral districts.

"Explain to everyone who isn't satisfied with what is going on in the country that they need to go and vote in these elections."

The bulk of the candidates Navalny's allies support are from the Communist Party, Russia's second most popular party. It currently has 43 lawmakers in the 450-seat legislature. Navalny's allies recommended Communist candidates in 11 of the capital's 15 districts.

Putin, who has been in power as either president or prime minister since 1999, helped found United Russia but is not a member.

In the run-up to the vote, Putin approved higher salaries and one-off payments to military and law enforcement personnel. He pledged similar measures for pensioners.

Kremlin critics say the measures are designed to boost support for United Russia. The Kremlin says the support measures have nothing to do with the vote.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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