Putin’s United Russia party criticised for suggestive election advert

Vladimir Putin‘s United Russia party has come under fire for a suggestive election advert as the party’s popularity hurtles towards record lows.

The slick advert, released this week, shows a young couple flirting at a polling site, before the woman grabs the man by the neck and pulls him into the election booth as heavy breaths accompany a techno soundtrack.

Seconds later, the dishevelled couple leave the booth and drop their ballots in a box, as the ad’s slogan is displayed on the screen: “Let’s do it together”.

Gennady Gudkov, an influential Duma deputy, said in an interview published on Wednesday that he would ask prosecutors and the country’s election commission to investigate the advert – not for its sexual content, but for violating the constitution.

“United Russia has forgotten that voting in Russia is meant to be secret,” Gudkov, deputy head of the Duma’s security committee and a member of A Just Russia, a Kremlin-sanctioned opposition party, told Izvestiya newspaper.

“According to the law, a person who drops their ballot in the box must be in the booth completely alone.”

This is not the first time United Russia has been criticised for its election tactics as it prepares for parliamentary elections on 4 December. Bloggers have pointed out that the party’s latest election poster, rolled out across Moscow this week, is a near direct copy of billboards long plastered across the city by the election commission.

But United Russia’s near total dominance of politics mean opponents have little hope their complaints will be upheld. “There is no violation of election law here,” the election commission spokesman Dmitry Reut told Interfax.

Robert Shlegel, a Duma deputy with close ties to the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, defended the video. “The internet is a very creative medium,” he told Izvestiya. “So we have to be creative. Youth understand such ads and it works for the internet.”

The new campaign comes as United Russia faces a crisis of popularity, particularly among web-savvy youth. A Levada Centre poll released on Tuesday showed that 51% of respondents planned to vote for United Russia – down from 60% just one week before.

Levada also found that Putin, the prime minister, who plans to return to the presidency next year, has the support of 61% of respondents – a high number for most leaders but a near record low for a man who has regularly polled near 80%. The rating is Putin’s lowest since August 2000, when he was criticised for his slow reaction to the Kursk submarine disaster.

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