Putin party to lose support in Russia vote: polls

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The ruling United Russia party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will win Russia's legislative election next month but with a substantially reduced majority, opinion polls said Friday.

United Russia will lose its two-thirds majority in the State Duma -- the so-called "constitutional majority" that is required for the constitution to be changed, separate polls by the Levada Centre and VTsIOM pollsters said.

But it will still retain a simple majority in the lower house in December 4's election well ahead of its nearest rivals, the relatively pliant Communist Party, with the liberal opposition nowhere in sight.

Support for Putin and his partner in Russia's ruling tandem, President Dmitry Medvedev, has progressively eroded after reaching highs before the Russian economy was hit hard by the 2008 economic crisis.

The independent Levada Centre said that United Russia, according to its projections, would win 253 of the 450 seats in the State Duma, well down from the 315 it obtained in the last elections in 2007.

It said that 53 percent of people who had made up their minds and were going to vote in the election would back United Russia, compared with its rating of 64.3 percent in the 2007 election.

The Communist Party would win 94 seats and the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party 59 with the left-leaning A Just Russia obtaining 44 seats, all improving their position at the expense of United Russia.

No other party would secure the minimum to make it into parliament.

According to state-controlled VTsIOM, United Russia would win 262 seats. The Communists would have 82 deputies, the ultra-nationalists 57 and A Just Russia 49.

While Putin's grip on Russia remains strong after over a decade in power, cracks in what once seemed impregnable popular support have emerged amid a weaker economy and the growth of criticism of the authorities on the Internet.

"The elections are taking place against a background of crises and a weakening of the resources of the authorities," director of the Levada Centre Lev Gudkov told reporters.

"The economic situation is uncertain and this is troubling the middle class in cities. They are also worried about the prospect of stagnation and are critical about what is happening in the country."

Both polls were based on a sample of 1,600 people in 40 regions across Russia.

© 2011 AFP

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