Putin, Medvedev Happy with Poll Results despite Setback
"The parliamentary elections conducted in Russia today demonstrated that democracy in the country is functioning," President, Dmitry Medvedev declared Sunday night.
The President further noted that others "might not like it, but the democratic process in Russia is a fact and the new Parliament will be sound and capable."
Russians went to the polls Sunday to elect 450 Members of the lower house of the Parliament - Duma, for the next five years.
Seven parties were allowed to run - down from 11 in 2007.
With nearly 100% of votes counted, the Central Election Commission said Medvedev's and Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin's United Russia had just over 50% (49.79) of the vote, down from 64% in 2007.
The vote is being seen as a popularity test of Putin, who is running for the presidency on March 4.
If the result is confirmed, United Russia would lose its current two-thirds majority (315 seats) which allowed it to change the constitution unchallenged. The results are seen by experts as a major setback and embarrassment for Putin, who served as president from 2000 to 2008, but was prohibited by the constitution from running for a third consecutive term.
The election commission said the Communist Party is in second place with 19.1% of the vote.
Just Russia is in third place with 13% and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has 11.8%, the election commission said.
In his statement, Medvedev pointed out the results were a reflection of the real political situation in the country, stressing that 50% for United Russia were a definite success. The President explained the party will enter in "coalition relations" with other political formations in the new Duma.
If Putin is elected President in March, Medvedev will, most likely, lead United Russia.
Putin, himself, said the elections results promise a stable development of the country, adding they were the "optimum and reflected the real situation in Russia."
"The voters kept United Russia as the leading political force in the country despite the complex period of time when it rules and the crisis," the PM stated.
Meanwhile, there was an avalanche of information about massive violations and fraud. According to the opposition, all day it had been like receiving reports from a war zone."
The only independent monitoring group Golos (Voice) said its website suffered a cyber-attack. Ekho Moskvy (Moscow's Echo), a liberal radio station, said its website had also been attacked.
Police arrested more than 200 people at an opposition demonstration in downtown Moscow, including two opposition parties' leaders, and 70 were arrested in Sankt Petersburg Sunday.
On Friday, Golos was fined the equivalent of USD 1 000 by a Moscow court for violating a law that prohibits publication of election opinion research for five days before a vote.
Golos head Liliya Shibanova said officials had taken her laptop at Moscow airport on the pretext that it had illegal software.
"This is a provocation directed personally against me," she said, alleging that the authorities were trying to prevent her from travelling to the European parliament next week.
Meanwhile Putin has accused foreign powers of meddling in election preparations. Duma members have also questioned why a foreign-funded organization is allowed to monitor Russian elections.
The Golos monitors, who are not affiliated with any party, are funded largely by the US and EU.
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