The Russian federal election is over and the results are as they were expected. Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party has taken 49.5 per cent of the vote, or about 30.39 million votes after Sunday’s election. It is a majority of the seats in the Duma, projected to be 238 seats. While it is a majority, it also represents a substantial shift in power. In past years the United Russia party has had a 64% majority. This shows that while Putin has not lost power, he has lost some support. He is projected to only have a 13 seat majority in the Duma.
“Even in difficult times, the people have declared that they believe in our potential to build a prosperous country.”
– Vladimir Putin, as results were released
With United Russia taking almost 50% of the vote, the rest of them went to the Communist Party at 19% of the vote, “A Just Russia” collected almost 13% of the votes and the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party gained 12%. The Central Election Commission has said that the remaining 4% of the vote will take at least a few more days to be counted as the votes were coming from remote areas of the country and from Russians voting overseas.
Political rivals have already come forward with complaints of election irregularities with the intention of giving an advantage to Putin’s United Russia Party. Some of the accusations include including intimidation of voters and ballot stuffing. In Vladivostok there were complaints by voters that the United Russia party was offering free food in exchange for agreements to vote for them. Communist leader Zyuganov has stated that his party monitors halted an attempt to stuff the ballot box at a Moscow polling station where they found that 300 votes were already in the box before the vote began.
The only independent election observe in Russia, Golos, has reported that they have recorded over 5,000 voting irregularities. They say they have been mostly related to people being pressured to vote for United Russia. They said, Sunday’s polls “were characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation, including serious indications of ballot box stuffing”.
Despite the large popularity Putin enjoys, many Russians are becoming tired of his authoritarian way operating the country. Rampant corruption exists all throughout Russia with Putin seemingly doing very little to put and end to it. The growing gap between the rich and the poor is also a situation that is not being addressed. Another source of the decline in popularity for Putin is political stagnation. Average Russians are seeing a situation where nothing is changing. They’re seeing the same wrongs going on without any challenge to it. There’s no new ideas about how to move forward, and they’re looking at the same political faces all the time. Even though Putin does have a high approval rating as compared to everyone else, that popularity is increasingly fragile and could possibly reverse on a single scandal. The voters have certainly shown their apathy with the voter turn out. According to the ECE about 60 per cent of Russia’s 110 million registered voters cast ballots, down from 64 per cent four years ago.