United Russia’s vote dropped more than 18 percentage points from four years ago to 45.5 percent, according to an exit poll of 80,000 people by the Public Opinion Foundation. The party got 48.5 percent, according to an exit poll of 250,994 people by the state-run All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion. Official results are due tomorrow.“This is a personal defeat for Putin,” said Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst based in Moscow. “He understands that his popularity is falling and it’s falling increasingly fast.”
Putin, 59, who plans to return as president next year to give him potentially almost a quarter-century in power if he runs again in 2018, lost popularity as stalling wage growth and the government’s shortcomings in curbing corruption repel voters.
Reuters adds that Mr. Putin's image and that which he has tried to present to the nation and the world might be growing stale.The loss of United Russia’s two-thirds majority, which allowed it to singlehandedly change the Constitution, is the party’s first electoral setback since it was set up 10 years ago. Putin next year may be forced to make unpopular cuts in social spending and raise the pension age to balance the budget. United Russia currently has 315 seats out of the 450-member State Duma, the lower house of parliament.
The vote was widely seen as a test of Putin's personal authority after signs that Russians have started to tire of his tough-guy image, built up by his crushing of a rebellion in revel Chehnya and antics such as bare-chested horse riding.
"Russia has a new political reality even if they rewrite everything," said Sergei Obukhov, a parliamentary deputy of the Communist Party, which made considerable gains, its vote almost doubling to around 20 percent, according to the exit poll.
A United Russia leader, Boris Gryzlov, looked stunned when he addressed reporters after voting ended but claimed victory and said: "We are watching and hope that we shall get a majority of the mandate in the State Duma."
Ruling? Da. Ruling with a majority? Nyet. And ruling with little opposition? Definitely nyet!
"We can say that United Russia remains the ruling party."