By: Kamala Kelkar
Vladimir Putin’s run for the Russian presidency hit a surprising hurdle yesterday when exit polls in parliamentary elections showed barely half of voters still support his party, compared with 64 percent four years ago.
And political analysts say voters in yesterday’s Duma election were abandoning Putin’s United Russia party because they are weary of the domination his single empire has held for the past decade, among several other issues.
“It’s the beginning of the end,” political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky told Reuters. The result “shows a loss of prestige for the party and the country’s leaders.
Signs of voter fatigue started to surface a week ago, when Putin, currently prime minister, was booed during an appearance at a mixed martial arts bout in a Moscow arena.
Yet, since he has no strong rivals, he is still likely to swap jobs with hand-picked President Dmitry Medvedev after the March election and serve a third term.
However, if his party’s support remains at the 50 percent level when the final results are in today, United Russia would lose its super-majority in the 450-seat Duma, hitting an all-time low since its inception a decade ago.
While the results may prove embarrassing for Putin, the loss probably won’t have an impact on his ability to pass laws.
But several fraudulent allegations also marred the validity of the vote count yesterday.
For example, independent electoral watchdog group Golos compiled around 5,300 complaints of election-law violations ahead of the vote, most of which were linked to United Russia. Golos and two liberal media outlets reported that hackers had shut down their websites yesterday, trying to hush such claims.
Polls conducted by two state-funded TV stations also revealed that the Communist Party, with close to 20 percent of the votes, is United Russia’s closest rival.