Double trouble: Lookalikes muddle Russian ballot

When Boris Vishnevsky saw who he's up against in St Petersburg elections this month, he got a shock.

Two other Boris Vishnevskys are standing, and they sport the same hair and beard as him.

The veteran opposition politician is seeking to renew his seat in the city's Legislative Assembly, and says the doppelgangers are a ruse by authorities to confuse voters and whittle down his count.

The other two officially changed their names in July, he says.

"Now they have changed their appearance as well. You see, on the one hand, it's appalling. But... those people have no decency, no reputation, no dignity. What kind of a person do you have to be to change your name, surname and also your appearance to please your political boss?"

Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova condemned the incident as an "embarrassment and an outrage".

"I understand that the law is soft and it allowed this manipulation, unfortunately. They acted shrewdly too. They did their homework too, our political technologists."

She suggested the two new Vishnevskys submit different photographs, which they hadn't, as of Tuesday (September 7).

The commission rejected Vishnevsky's demand that they stand under their original names, on the basis that voters could still tell the three apart by their middle names, TASS news agency reported.

Russia holds an array of elections on September 17-19. President Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party is expected to win, despite a slump in ratings.

The original Vishnevsky says his lookalikes show he's a strong contender. The other two could not be reached for comment.

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