Viet Nam News
MOSCOW – Russia’s ruling United Russia party on Sunday cruised to an easy victory in parliamentary polls that could pave the way for President Vladimir Putin to glide to a fourth term in 2018 elections, partial results showed.
The ballot for the 450-seat State Duma was smooth sailing for authorities desperate to avoid a repeat of mass protests last time round and eager to increase their dominance as Russia faces the longest economic crisis of Putin’s rule.
But a low turnout suggested that many Russians may be turned off by a system in which the Kremlin wields near-total power, which could raise questions over legitimacy.
"We can announce already with certainty that the party secured a good result, that it won," Putin said after the vote.
"The situation is tough and difficult but the people still voted for United Russia," he said on state television.
After 60 per cent of the ballots in the party-list vote had been counted, Putin’s United Russia had received 53.8 per cent of the vote, far ahead of the Communists on 13.9, the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party on 13.7 per cent and A Just Russia on 6.2, results published by the election commission showed.
Those four parties – which made up the last parliament and all back the Kremlin – were the only ones to clear the five per cent threshold needed to claim a share of the one-half of seats up for grabs.
The vote comes as Putin’s approval ratings remain high at around 80 per cent and authorities appear to be banking on trouble-free presidential elections in two years.
Results indicated that liberal opposition groups were unlikely to make it into parliament, with neither the Yabloko party, nor the Parnas party, headed by former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, appearing to have secured enough votes to win a seat.
The other half of the deputies are being elected on a constituency basis after a change to the election law.
With only a fraction of the votes counted, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev confidently said that his party would end up with an "absolute majority" in the Duma.
Though the overall tally for United Russia was higher than the 49 per cent it claimed in 2011, participation was low, particularly in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Only 47.8 of voters cast their ballots, against 60 per cent in 2011, electoral officials said. – AFP