MOSCOW – Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party appears to have been deserted by millions of Russians after partial results showed it had won just under 50 per cent of the vote in a parliamentary election on Sunday, ‘The Telegraph’ reports. With 96 per cent of the vote counted, the country’s Central Election Commission said it had won 49.5 per cent of the vote, technically short of a simple majority but just enough to scrape a majority of seats in the Duma, the lower house of parliament. Barring the unexpected, United Russia is forecast to control 238 seats in the 450-seat Duma for the next five years, down from 315 seats previously.
While winning almost half the share of the vote would be considered a triumph in many other countries, for United Russia and for the strongman Russian prime minister it is deeply embarrassing. It was the first chance Russians were given to pronounce on his decision to return to the presidency next year for a third time.
President Dmitry Medvedev, who headed the United Russia ticket, said the party made a “decent showing,” and that “the result of these parliament elections reflects people’s attitudes,” according to CNN. “United Russia remains the leader and the largest political force elected to the parliament,” Medvedev said at the party’s headquarters. Putin, who spoke after Medvedev, thanked those who voted for his party “despite the difficulties, despite the economic crisis.”