Putin party punished across Russia's regions
The United Russia party of Vladimir Putin saw its popularity ratings crumble in elections in a number of Russian regions where it won barely 30 percent of the vote, results showed Monday.
The results for United Russia in Sunday's polls were particularly weak in regions at the extreme ends of Russia -- in the Far East on the Pacific and the Far North -- as well as Saint Petersburg and central Siberia.
President Dmitry Medvedev described the poor results in these regions as a "signal" and hinted that the political futures of their Kremlin-appointed governors could be in danger.
The weak poll rating of 33.4 percent in the Primorye region around the Far East city of Vladivostok is disturbing for the authorities given the city has been the subject of a multibillion dollar spending programme for an Asian summit next year.
At the other end of Russia in the western exclave of Kaliningrad, United Russia polled only 37 percent. In the northern region of Arkhangelsk it mustered 32 percent.
United Russia managed to stay unbeaten in all of Russia's 83 regions but its failure to win much more than a third of the vote in several highly-populated areas is a major reverse for its previous domination of Russian politics.
Its worst result was in the region of Yaroslavl, north of Moscow, where United Russia polled only 29 percent, only five percent more than its nearest rivals the Communist Party.
It also polled weakly in big regions in central Siberia such as Tomsk, Novosibirsk and Irkutsk which have a tradition of political dissent going back to hosting political exiles in the Tsarist era.
Its rating in the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg -- which had a reputation for intellectual non-conformism even in Soviet days -- was low at 33 percent.
"We need to look closely at those regions where people declined to trust United Russia," said Medvedev in a meeting with supporters. "Not because this is a tragedy but because it is a signal for the authorities.
"It is a signal that the regional authorities are not working as they should be," he added, warning of "organisational conclusions".
But contrary to predictions, the group's support in Moscow held up at 46 percent, just below the national average, possibly helped by a high-profile campaign by new United Russia mayor Sergei Sobyanin to improve the quality of life in the city.
The opposition, which alleged mass violations, said the results would have been far worse for United Russia in clean elections. The Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov described the elections as "completely illegitimate"
United Russia's ratings nationwide were boosted to just under 50 percent with the help of mass shows of support in the Northern Caucasus, where Russia is still battling an Islamist insurgency.
The conflict-plagued Dagestan region voted over 91 percent for the ruling party, while in neighbouring Chechnya where Russia waged two wars in the past 15 years, United Russia polled an astonishing 99.50 percent of votes.
United Russia also won over 70 percent of the votes in the largely Muslim regions of Tatarstan on the Volga and Bashkortostan, and also gained over 85 percent of the vote in the Siberian Buddhist region of Tuva.
© 2011 AFP