MOSCOW, Sept. 19 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party declared victory in weekend parliamentary elections as it maintained its majority.
With 93 percent of the vote counted, the ruling party received 50.3 percent of the votes in elections for the 450-seat Duma, more than it received in 2011, prior to an economic recession. The Communist Party was in second place, followed by the Liberal Democrat Party and the A Just Russia Party, in a record-low voter turnout. Official results were expected to be released Monday.
About 47 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, the lowest number since Russia declared its 1991 independence and down from 60 percent in 2011 parliamentary elections. Voter apathy was particularly notable in Russia’s largest cities — Moscow and St. Petersburg. Voter turnout hovered in the 20 percent range by Sunday afternoon, an indication voters were staying home.
Support for Putin’s party, nationally has fallen in the past 18 months, from 60 percent to the mid-40 percent range and to about 27 percent in the Moscow area, Russia’s Public Opinion Foundation reported.
After public protests by tens of thousands over alleged voter fraud after the 2011 election, authorities worked to ensure transparency, and invited hundreds of observers from other countries. None were in Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, which voted in Russian elections for the first time. Many countries, including the United States and those in the European Union, refuse to acknowledge Crimea as a part of Russia.
The United Russia Party won despite polls showing a drop in its popularity since the fall in the price of oil and economic sanctions damaged the Russian economy. The vote can be seen as a mandate for Putin and a continuation of the status quo, as serious opposition to his administration remains muffled and the state-controlled Russian media offered little attention to his opponents, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
A presidential election is scheduled for 2018.