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Russia's ruling party under 50% in early election results

December 4, 2011 |  1:43 pm

Russia-ballots

REPORTING FROM MOSCOW -- Russia’s ruling party appeared to have lost significant support among voters and was at risk of seeing its commanding majority in the lower house of parliament evaporate, according to exit polls and initial ballot counts in elections held Sunday.

With 51% of the ballots counted, the United Russia Party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev was leading its rivals with about 49% of the vote, far below the 64% it won in 2007 parliamentary elections. The Communist Party trailed with almost 20% of the vote, followed by the Just Russia and nationalist Liberal Democratic parties, each with just under 13%.

Exit polls cited by Russian television also suggested that United Russia would receive less than 50% of the vote.

If the voting totals hold up, the results would be a stinging defeat for Putin, who has announced plans to run for president in elections early next year. He held the post for two terms ending in 2008, when election laws forced him to step aside in favor of Medvedev, his hand-picked successor.

United Russia held a 315-seat majority in the 450-member State Duma, or lower house, going into Sunday’s election. Even if the party does not gain 50% of the vote in Sunday’s election, it still might be able to hold on to majority control under Russia’s electoral system.

Both Putin and Medvedev appeared at United Russia headquarters late Sunday and sought to put the best face on the election results.

United Russia’s showing in the polls reflects “the results of real democracy,” said Medvedev. “The party fared in a dignified way in accordance with its political influence. And the situation that we get in the State Duma reflects the real situation of political forces in the country.”

Putin, in turn, declared: “Despite all the difficulties and the responsibility ... on the party’s shoulders, our voters, our citizens have preserved its strength as the leading political party.”

Some independent observers suggestion that United Russia would not have garnered even as many votes as it had with election irregularities.

“We know already of several thousand documented and proven cases of campaign violations and gross abuse of administrative resource on all levels in favor of United Russia,” said Grigory Melkonyan, deputy leader of Golos, a private group that monitors campaign irregularities and violations.

“Regional and local officials all across the country apply pressure on companies and labor collectives, whose managers in their turn promise perks and bonuses to those who vote for the ruling party, demanding that they produce a photo of the ballot paper filled in the correct way, or simply threaten that they have a way to find out how their subordinates vote,” Melkonyan said.

Last week Vladimir Churov, the Central Election Commission chief and a staunch Putin ally, filed a complaint with the prosecutor general’s office accusing Golos of meddling in the campaign after the monitoring organization published a map it said showed thousands of violations of campaign regulations by officials and bureaucrats, most committed by the ruling party.

Several popular websites and Internet portals that published the map, including those of Echo of Moscow radio station and the New Times magazine, were attacked by unknown hackers Sunday morning. The Echo of Moscow website was inaccessible until evening.

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Photo: An election official, center, carries a ballot box to voters unable to reach the polling station in the village of Arzinka, about 300 miles east of Moscow. Credit: Pavel Golovkin / Associated Press

Russia’s ruling party appeared to have lost significant support among voters and was at risk of losing a majority in the lower house of parliament, according to exit polls and initial ballot counts in elections held Sunday.
With about 38% of the ballots counted, the United Russia party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev was leading its rivals with about 49% of the vote, far below the 64% in won in 2007. The communists trailed with almost 20% of the vote, followed by the nationalist Liberal Democratic and Just Russia parties, each with about 13%.
Exit polls cited by Russian television also suggested United Russia would receive less than 50% of the vote.
If the voting totals hold up, the results would be stinging defeat for Putin, who has announced plans to run for president in elections early next year. He held the post for two terms ending in 2008, when election laws  forced him to step aside in favor of Medvedev, his hand-picked successor.
United Russia received 64% of the vote in parliamentary elections four years ago, giving it a commanding majority of seats in the lower house. Even if the party does not gain 50% of the vote in Sunday’s election, it still might be able to hold on to a majority control under Russia’s electoral system.
Both Putin and Medvedev appeared at United Russia headquarters late Sunday and sought to put the best face on the election results.
United Russia’s showing in the polls reflects “the results of real democracy,” said Medvedev. “The party fared in a dignified way in accordance with its political influence. And the situation that we get in the State Duma reflects the real situation of political forces in the country.”
Putin, in turn, declared: “Despite all the difficulties and the responsibility that lay and lies on the party’s shoulders, our voters, our citizens have preserved its strength as the leading political party.”
Some independent observers suggestion that United Russia would not have garnered even as many votes as it had with election irregularities.
“We know already of several thousand documented and proven cases of campaign violations and gross abuse of administrative resource on all levels in favor of the United Russia,” said Grigory Melkonyan, deputy leader of Golos, a private group that monitors campaign irregularities and violations.
“Regional and local officials all across the country apply pressure on companies and labor collectives, whose managers in their turn promise perks and bonuses to those who votes for the ruling party, demanding that they produce a photo of the ballot paper filled in the correct way, or simply threaten that they have a way to find out how their subordinates vote,” Melkonyan said.
Last week Vladimir Churov, the Central Election Commission chief and a staunch Putin ally, filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General’s Office accusing Golos of meddling in the campaign and agitating against the United Russia after the monitoring organization published a map it said showed thousands of violations of the campaign regulations by officials and bureaucrats, most committed by the ruling party.
Several popular websites and Internet portals, including those of Echo of Moscow radio station and The New Times magazine, which published the Golos map were attacked by unknown hackers Sunday morning. The Echo of Moscow website was still inaccessible until evening.
Yuri Gudkov, a lawmaker and member of the Just Russia party, a former ally and currently a bitter opponent of the United Russia, accused the Kremlin of voting fraud and ballot stuffing.
“Today we caught red-handed a deputy head of a Moscow polling station in an attempt to stuff 42 ballot papers all marked in favor of the United Russia,” he said. “At another station we discovered a whole ballot box filled with pro-United Russia ballots ahead of the voting.”
At a downtown Moscow polling station Lidia Sinyavskaya, sporting a navy blue jacket with a United Russia observer badge on its lapel, was shaking her head in disbelieve as several dozen crew-cut young men in civilian clothes filed in for ballot papers.
“I may be betraying my party but this is totally outrageous!” she said. “There are more than two hundred students of the Border Troops Academy here and all their names are in the main ballot list as regular residents of the district, which is a gross violation!”
“They should all be in a special list and should all have special vote-away tickets which they apparently don’t have!” she added. “No wonder they will vote the way they are ordered for the party that I here represent.”
Though the border troops cadets at polling station #227 refused to say which party they voted for, others were not so taciturn.
“All the radical and real opposition parties are barred from this election and there is really not much choice here,” Yuri Skovorodnikov, a 60-year-old painter said. “I came here to vote only to prevent the United Russia from stealing my voice and voted for the most decent party on the list – Yabloko,” the only liberal opposition party on the ballot.
“I voted for the Liberal Democratic party [a nationalist group] because the United Russia is more and more usurping power and the way we go here we will soon live under a dictatorship again,” Alexander Perepada, a 42-year-old colonel with the Federal Security Service, former the KGB.
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