6 Dec 2011

Putin's party down in poll

5:48 am on 6 December 2011

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party has experienced a sharp drop in support in parliamentary elections on Sunday.

With 96% of votes counted, the party had just under 50% of the vote, down from 64% in 2007, the BBC reports.

The vote is seen as a popularity test of Mr Putin, who is seeking to return to the Kremlin as president in March next year.

Electoral Commission head Vladimir Churov said United Russia should have a slim majority, with 238 seats out of 450 in the lower house of parliament, down from 315.

The Communist Party is in second place with 19.2% of the vote, giving it 92 seats.