Vladimir Putin awoke to a hard reality this morning. The exit polls from the eastern half of his nation showed his party losing the majority in the Duma (parliament). From their 64.3% majority win in 2007, the United Russia Party has slipped to between 45% and 48% in the new Duma.
United Russia will have to learn to work with the other parties to get anything accomplished during the Duma’s new session, something they have never had to deal with. United Russia has done everything Putin told them do without dissent and without having to worry about what other political parties think. Losing the majority will be a major blow, not just to the party, but to Putin’s personal power.
Putin is expected to regain the Presidency….or he was until this morning. Though no credible candidate has emerged to run against him in the March elections, the results of the parliamentary election could indicate that Russians are not happy with the idea of Putin and current President Dimitry Medvedev swapping jobs every few years to keep Putin’s position as the de facto dictator of the Russian Federation. Currently, the only candidate that has stepped forward is the head of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov.
The final results for the parliamentary elections will probably not be available for a day or so, but there were already thousands of complaints of polling problems before the voting even started. President Medvedev has insisted that there has been no voter fraud, but that is a hard sell in a country where the election watchdogs have been harassed, fined and arrested.
Well, in June Putin told his party that this election season would be “dirty” – maybe this is what he meant, that his party wouldn’t be able to sweep away all opposition.