Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party failed to gain a majority of the vote in several regional polls, less than a year before parliamentary and presidential elections.
United Russia, which has a two-thirds majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, got fewer than half of ballots cast in seven regions yesterday, according to preliminary results cited by state-run broadcaster Rossiya 24. Voters were electing assemblies in 12 out of 83 regions. United Russia got about 64 percent of the vote in 2007 elections. The next nationwide parliamentary poll is due in December.
The opposition Communist Party complained of ballot-stuffing in several regions including Tambov and Saratov in central Russia. “All the dirty tricks devised over the past 20 years were used in the arsenal of United Russia and its supporters,” Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said in a statement on his party’s website.
Putin, 58, handed over the presidency to his protege, Dmitry Medvedev, in 2008, because of a constitutional ban on serving more than two consecutive terms. Putin, who has remained at the center of power as prime minister, hasn’t ruled out standing for election as president in early 2012. This would potentially give him almost a quarter century in power under new, six-year presidential mandates.
Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s chief political strategist, said in November that the ruling party wouldn’t be able to maintain a two-thirds majority in the next parliament that enables it to change the constitution unilaterally.
“This means it will need to enter into coalitions to adopt important decisions,” he said then.
A senior United Russia official, Boris Gryzlov, thanked Russian voters for voicing their approval of Putin, saying the party had improved its score in the regions compared with earlier provincial elections.
“This allows us to count on a rise in support in the upcoming Duma elections in December,” Gryzlov, who is also the lower house of parliament speaker, said in comments published on the party’s website late yesterday.
The results showed Russians’ trust in government, Putin said today in the Siberian city of Tomsk. “These are more than satisfactory results for United Russia, which won in all these regions, where it remains the leading political force,” he said in comments posted on the government’s website.