Nevertheless, as the Associated Press reports, the election results were a stinging blow to Vladimir Putin, who in essence is United Russia.
United Russia is still expected to retain its majority in the lower house and Putin is all but certain to win next March's presidential election, but Sunday's vote badly dented his carefully groomed image. It reflected a strong public frustration with the lack of political competition, ubiquitous official corruption and the gap between rich and poor.
With about 96 per cent of precincts counted, United Russia was leading with 49.5 per cent of the vote, Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov said. He predicted that it will get 238 of the Duma's 450 seats, a sharp drop compared to the previous vote that landed the party a two-thirds majority in the State Duma, allowing it to change the constitution.In its analysis of the vote, the New York Times notes that Mr. Putin will need to re-evaluate how he attempts to reach voters.
President Dmitri A. Medvedev, who called to congratulate the leaders of the three parties that won seats, acknowledged that the results would require a “more complex configuration” in Parliament and the formation of “coalition bloc agreements” — a major shift from the more than two-thirds supermajority that now gives United Russia the ability to change the Constitution without impediment.
“Democracy is in action,” Mr. Medvedev said, standing with Mr. Putin at United Russia’s campaign headquarters, where both appeared a bit shaken. “The party performed worthily; it essentially represents 50 percent of our population — the final number will be determined — and the result is real democracy.”True, presuming that there were no dirty tricks surrounding the vote. As the Moscow Times notes, that's not a certainty.