Putin hails 'public trust' after polls win
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday hailed his ruling party's resounding regional election victory as a sign of public trust in the Russian authorities one year ahead of presidential elections.
Sunday's polls were the final test of voter sympathies ahead of December parliamentary elections and a presidential ballot one year from now that could potentially see Putin return for a third term in the Kremlin.
Preliminary results showed United Russia with commanding leads in each of the 12 local legislative elections in a vote that both the losing Communist Party and independent observers said was riddled with fraud.
United Russia said it won 69 percent of all the contested legislative seats and scored impressive victories in other regional races.
"This of course is a sign of trust in the authorities as a whole," Putin said in televised remarks.
"This means that people -- despite many of them feeling tired of all the problems, which is understandable -- still view the authorities' actions in a positive light," he added.
The results will deliver a strong boost to Putin amid Russian government fears of growing discontent about rising food prices and corruption -- two elements of the revolts that seized north Africa and the Middle East.
Putin is widely seen as the country's de facto leader despite President Dmitry Medvedev's repeated attempts to emerge from his predecessor's shadows through various modernisation campaigns.
The party continues to ride Putin's coattails and often presents no election platform besides a promise to swiftly pass any legislation sponsored by the prime minister's team.
The layout of Russia's parliament will now allow United Russia to do so without anyone else's backing, and its faction leader said the results showed that the party's dominance was here to stay.
"This tells us that the country's political system ... works in the voters' favour and that they trust it," Boris Gryzlov said in statement posted on the party's website.
"This is (a sign of) support for the authorities, support of the president and support for our party leader Putin," he added in televised remarks.
The results flew in the face of a Levada Centre survey showing support for United Russia peaking in early 2009 and reaching just 35 percent in January.
Communist Party boss Gennady Zyuganov called the polls the most fraud-riddled in Russia's post-Soviet era.
"We witnessed United Russia using all the dirty tricks invented in the past 15-20 years," Interfax quoted Zyuganov as saying. "This ugliness did not exist before."
The Communist Party had its best showing in central Russia's Nizhny Novgorod region -- a former liberal heartland that continues to show strong resentment with Moscow rule -- where it won just 29 percent of the vote.
Zyuganov's claims of fraud were confirmed by monitors from Russia's Golos association.
More than 400 Golos election observers had been expected to monitor the polls. But many gave up after reportedly being contacted by either the police or Russia's powerful Federal Security Service (FSB).
One of the group's correspondents said he had been beaten up at a polling station in the Kaliningrad region as election officials and the authorities looked on.
One Communist Party official told the Vedomosti daily that students had been bused in en masse to vote for the ruling party in the volatile North Caucasus republic of Dagestan and the central Saratov region.
But United Russia's Gryzlov called such reports a "provocation" that discredited the losing parties.
© 2011 AFP