Vladimir Putin casts his vote 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Vladimir Putin's ruling party clung to a much reduced majority in parliament on Monday after an election that showed growing weariness with the man who has dominated Russia for more than a decade and plans to return to the presidency next year.
Putin's United Russia won 49.5 percent of the votes on Sunday, compared with 64 percent support four years ago, and enough to take up 238 of the 450 seats in the State Duma lower house, almost complete results and projections showed.
The party received nearly one-third fewer votes than in 2007 and fell
far short of the 315 seats it secured in the last Duma election, making
it the biggest electoral setback for Putin since he rose to power in
Opponents said even this outcome was inflated by fraud. The leader of
the Communist Party, on target to increase its representation from 57 to
92 seats, said the election was the dirtiest since the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991.
Although Putin is still likely to win a presidential election next
March, Sunday's result could dent the authority of the man who has ruled
for 12 years with a mixture of hardline security policies, political
acumen and showmanship but who was booed and jeered after a martial arts
bout last month.
"Many Russians voted against the system and Putin is the head of that
system," said Stanislav Kucher, a commentator with Kommersant FM radio
station. "Putin has a very difficult choice. To survive politically he
needs to reform but he can only reform if he gets rid of many vested
interests in the ruling circle. To stay as he is means the opposite of
Putin has cultivated a tough man image with stunts such as riding a
horse bare chested, tracking tigers and flying a fighter plane. But the
public appears to have wearied of the antics and his popularity, while
still high, has fallen.
Many voters, fed up with widespread corruption, refer to United Russia
as the party of swindlers and thieves and resent the huge gap between
the rich and poor. Some fear Putin's return to the presidency may herald
economic and political stagnation.