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Observers say Russian vote unfair, cite violations

MOSCOW - Russia's parliamentary election was unfairly slanted in favor of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party and marred by apparent manipulations including ballot box stuffing, the main international observer mission said on Monday.
The campaign for Sunday's election was marked by "limited political competition and a lack of fairness," observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly said.The vote count "was characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation, including several serious indications of ballot box stuffing," the monitors said in their preliminary report.
A nearly complete vote count indicated Putin's United Russia party won 49.5 percent, enough to secure 238 of the 450 seats in the State Duma lower house, the Central Election Commission said -- a loss of 77 seats it held in the outgoing Duma.
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