President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party is headed for a huge majority in parliamentary elections. With nearly 90 per cent of the votes counted on Monday, the party had 54.3 per cent of ballots, securing it at least 338 seats in the 450-member parliament.
It was followed by two parties who back decisions made by the government — the Communists and ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party.
With such a landslide victory in Duma, Russia’s legislative assembly, Putin’s road to the fourth term as the President of Russia has only smoothened.
The nationwide election follows a tumultuous few years that have seen the country seize the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine, plunge into its worst standoff with the West since the Cold War and start a military operation in Syria.
But the Kremlin exerts near-total control and, after a campaign dubbed the most boring in recent memory, a trouble-free victory for ruling United Russia would help smooth the way for Putin to claim a fourth term as president in 2018.
“I knew who to vote for. Surely you must be aware,” Putin quipped to journalists after casting his vote in Moscow, Russian agencies reported.
The elections were also held in the backdrop of mass protests over the allegations of vote rigging.
The authorities, however, assured fair voting by replacing the former scandal-tainted election chief and allowing more genuine opposition candidates to take part.
But critics insist the Kremlin’s media dominance means the vote can never be fair and — with the 450-member State Duma viewed as a rubber-stamp body that slavishly toes the Kremlin’s line — apathy is widespread.
Officials said that by 1500 Moscow time the nationwide turnout stood at almost 33 per cent.
Electoral commission head Ella Pamfilova dismissed claims of widespread fraud but said authorities were probing allegations in the Siberian Altai region and threatened to annul the vote there.
Although the country is suffering its longest recession of Putin’s rule due to low oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine the Kremlin strongman boasts an approval rating of around 80 per cent.
(With inputs from the Agencies)