Putin party leads parliamentary elections despite big losses | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.12.2011
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Putin party leads parliamentary elections despite big losses

Early indicators show the party of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin losing ground after Sunday's vote. The United Russia party got just under 50 percent. The opposition claims the election was not free and fair.

Vladimir Putin

Putin's United Russia party suffered in the election

Sunday's parliamentary elections in Russia appear to have yielded a setback for the party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: although exit polls indicate United Russia fielded the most votes, the party's clear majority in parliament has been tested.

The exit polls give United Russia 48.5 percent of the vote, a significant drop from their current two-thirds majority in parliament. Despite the losses, Putin viewed the election as a success for his party.

"Despite all the difficulties and responsibility placed on the party's shoulders," he said, "our voters, our citizens, have preserved it as the leading political party."

Ballot boxes are emptied in Russia to count votes

The opposition claims there was widespread tampering

"This is an optimal result which reflects the real situation in the country."

The result comes amidst outcry from election watchdogs in Russia who claim their websites were the victim of hackers trying to block publication of election violations.

Among the websites allegedly targeted was the independent election monitoring site Golos, which has published thousands of election law violations leading up to Sunday's vote. Most of the violations reported were in favor of United Russia.

United Russia maintains power

As expected, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation came in second to United Russia, polling 19.8 percent of the vote. Third and fourth were closely contested, according to exit polls, with the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia brining in 12.8 percent, and the centrist Fair Russia party gaining 11.4 percent.

The Communist Party alleged widespread fraud at polling stations across the country.

"We have received thousands of calls from regional offices, confirming massive violations and fraud," said Ivan Melnikov, the party's deputy head.

"The country has never seen such a dirty election," added Gennady Zyuganov, the party's leader, "even during the depth of the collapse under President Boris Yeltsin."

United Russia has been the country's leading political force for the better part of a decade. It was created by Putin in 2001. A strong showing in the parliamentary elections would be considered a boost to Putin's campaign for president, which will be decided in a vote in 2012.

Around a hundred people were detained in Moscow after taking part in an unsanctioned opposition rally. Another 70 people were detained at a similar rally in Saint Petersburg.

Author: Matt Zuvela (dpa, AFP, AP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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