The ruling party of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin yesterday won Russia’s parliamentary elections, but with a sharply reduced majority, in a blow for the strongman ahead of his planned return to the Kremlin next year.
The results mean his United Russia party has lost the constitutional majority of two-thirds in the State Duma required to pass any changes to the Constitution, amid signs Putin’s once invincible popularity is on the wane.
The vote on Sunday was shadowed by accusations of dirty tricks by the authorities and observers, led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said the elections were slanted in favor of United Russia and saw violations, including ballot stuffing.
“The election administration lacked independence, most media were partial and state authorities interfered unduly at different levels,” they said.
United Russia should obtain 238 seats in the 450-seat State Duma, an absolute majority, but down sharply from the 315 seats it won in the last polls in 2007, Russian election commission chief Vladimir Churov told reporters.
The party only managed to win 49.54 percent of the vote, he said, a striking contrast from the 2007 polls, when Putin’s popularity was at its peak and his party won more than 64 percent.
“Based on these results, we will be able to ensure the stable development of our country,” Putin said in a terse speech standing alongside Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at his party’s campaign headquarters.
Its biggest opposition will be the Communist Party, with 92 seats, followed by the A Just Russia party, with 64 seats, and the -ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, with 56 mandates. The results are based on a 96 percent vote count.
“United Russia only won a majority in the State Duma because of the particularities of Russian electoral law,” the Vedomosti daily wrote, acidly describing United Russia as “the party of the minority.”
The relatively poor showing came after Putin announced in September he planned to reclaim his old Kremlin job in March presidential polls, despite signs Russians may be growing disillusioned with his 11-year rule.
Putin, who has dominated Russia since 2000, is serving a four-year stint as prime minister after handing over the Kremlin in 2008 to his protege, Medvedev.