December 05, 2011

Voters punish Putin as Russia's communists make comeback

Alexey Nikolsky / EPA

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Updated at 4:40 a.m. ET: With about 96 percent of precincts counted, Prime Minister Vladimar Putin's United Russia was leading with 49.5 percent of the vote, Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov told The Associated Press. He predicted that it will get 238 of the Duma's 450 seats, a sharp drop compared to the previous vote that landed the party a two-thirds majority in the State Duma, allowing it to change the constitution. The Associated Press described the result as a "humiliating setback" for Putin, "who has steadily tightened his grip on the nation for nearly 12 years.
"Sunday's vote badly dented (Putin's) carefully groomed image," the AP's Vladimir Isachenkov wrote. "It reflected a strong public frustration with the lack of political competition, ubiquitous official corruption and the gap between rich and poor, which will pose a growing challenge to Putin's power."

By's F. Brinley Bruton -- published at 3 a.m. ET: Vladimir Putin's ruling party lost its crucial two-thirds majority in parliament in Russian elections held on Sunday, a damaging setback for the country's prime minister who is running for president once again next year.
Meanwhile, Russia’s communists, which seemed to have no future when the Soviet Union disintegrated 20 years ago, drew students, intellectuals, even some businessmen in forging an opposition to Putin's United Russia party, Reuters reported.
The party was running second to United Russia as counting continued on Monday, according to the Moscow Times. While the final results have yet to be determined, initial counting indicates that the party, which the Moscow Times said "crushingly dominated" Russia's politics for years, was set to lose its decisive majority the Duma. 

United Russia was set to win about 50 percent of the vote over the weekend, down from 64 percent in the 2007 elections, the newspaper reported.
The results will mean that United Russia will most likely be forced to work with the communists and two other parties that made gains in the elections -- the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and Just Russia, a social democratic party, The New York Times reported. Over 90 percent of the votes had been counted by Monday morning, the newspaper reported.
"We have received thousands of calls from regional offices, confirming massive violations and fraud," Communist Party deputy head Ivan Melnikov said on the party website, according to the BBC. "Throughout the day, it was like receiving reports from a war zone."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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