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Pro-Putin party wins in parliamentary election - extended

The United Russia party led by President Vladimir Putin experienced an overwhelming victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, adding up odds for Putin’s strive to keep the development path he drew for the nation. Monitors say Russian vote unfair – reports the Guardian.

Preliminary results from the Central Elections Commission showed that the United Russia, topping the 11 parties in the race, won some 63% of the nearly half counted votes in the elections for the 450 seats in State Duma, the lower house of parliament. President Putin made no public speech in the first hours following the end of voting at 1800 GMT. However, leader of United Russia and State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said the head of state had expressed congratulations. „Putin congratulated the United Russia on the victory and thanked the State Duma members for their work in the past four years. He said this work is efficient,” Gryzlov said. „In fact, the United Russia owes the large support it has gained to Vladimir Putin,” he said, labeling the elections an endorsement for Putin, who has pledged to step down after next March’s presidential election due to constitutional ban on a third consecutive term.

Putin’s popularity, thanks to booming economy fueled by flourishing oil revenues, has played a key role in the elections. „Why did I vote for the United Russia? Because I support President Putin, of course,” said a college student who only named herself as Natalya and was also one of the first voters at a polling station in Moscow. Putin, who refused to be a party member but led the United Russia in the run-on, called on the 108 million eligible voters to cast their ballots for the party, saying the elections will set tune for next March’s presidential election. Of the other three parties, which have also crossed the 7% threshold to enter the 450-seat State Duma, there is only one opposition, the Communist Party, which gained some 11% votes in initial counting and threatened to challenge the results.

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and the Fair Russia, however, made no complaint of the elections after they have won enough to enter the lower house according to initial results of the voting, which has recorded more than 60% of turnout, a new high in many years. „At any rate, we are already happy that it is more than 7%, and we were sure it would be like that,” LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in an interview with national television Channel 1.

The final result was expected to be published on Dec.7 or 8, said Vladimir Churov, chairman of the Central Elections Commission. The United Russia, given it forms constitutional majority, may grasp 306 of the 450 seats in the State Duma on the basis of ballots it gets, Russia’s Public Opinion Study Center Chairman Leonid Davydov said. The Communist Party may get 57 seats, the LDPR 45, and the Fair Russia party 42, he said. (

Foreign observers and Russian opposition groups accused authorities Monday of manipulating a sweeping parliamentary election victory for the party of President Vladimir Putin, who hailed the results as a validation of his leadership. It was „not a fair election,” said Goran Lennmarker, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The election monitoring arm of the OSCE - regarded in the West as the most authoritative election monitor - did not send observers, saying Russia delayed granting visas for so long that the organization would have been unable to meaningfully assess election preparations. Luc van den Brande, who headed the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said Russian authorities exerted the „overwhelming influence of the president’s office and the president” on the campaign, skewing its outcome. In Berlin, government spokesman Thomas Steg said Germany considered Russia’s vote neither fair nor free, adding that the country could not be considered a democracy.

The Bush administration and Britain’s Foreign Office urged Russian authorities to probe alleged voting irregularities. „In the run-up to election day, we expressed our concern regarding the use of state administrative resources in support of United Russia, the bias of the state-owned or - influenced media in favor of United Russia, intimidation of political opposition, and the lack of equal opportunity encountered by opposition candidates and parties,” said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the US National Security Council. Kimmo Kiljunen, vice president of the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly, called the elections „strange” and „problematic,” citing reports of harassment of parties and confiscation of election materials. „These elections, from my point of view, were done in a Russian way,” he said. „I mean that there was the strange situation that the executive branch almost chose the legislative branch. It is supposed to be the other way round.” (