19 Sep 2016

Putin's United Russia gains early election lead

5:56 pm on 19 September 2016

United Russia, backed by President Vladimir Putin, has taken about half the votes in the country's parliamentary election, early results suggest.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, foreground left, casts his vote at Polling Station No. 2151 at the Russian Academy of Sciences on Unified Election Day.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, foreground left, casts his vote at Polling Station No. 2151 at the Russian Academy of Sciences on Unified Election Day. Photo: AFP

Mr Putin said the party had "achieved a very good result."

The ruling United Russia party had 54.2 percent of the vote after 90 percent ballots were counted in Russia's parliamentary election, according to data from the election commission.

The Communist party was in second place with 13.5 percent of the vote, followed by the Liberal Democrats party on 13.3 percent and the Just Russia party on 6.2 percent.

Liberal opposition parties appeared to have failed to pass the 5 percent threshold needed for party-list representation.

However, there was a chance they could still get seats in individual constituencies.

Exit polls by VTsIOM and Public Opinion Foundation earlier predicted United Russia would win 44.5 and 48.7 percent of the vote respectively.

Social democrat party A Just Russia was fourth with about 8 percent.

Those four parties had dominated the last State Duma, the lower house.

Opposition parties Yabloko and Parnas were projected to receive 3.5 percent and 1.2 percent respectively.

Voter turnout was significantly down from the 2011 elections at just below 40 percent with two hours remaining before voting ended.

Election Commission head Ella Pamfilova said she was "fully confident that the elections are proceeding in a quite legitimate way".

Allegations of fraud after the last election had sparked large-scale protests against Mr Putin in Moscow and the authorities were anxious to oversee trouble-free polls this time.

Mr Putin has enjoyed 17 years in power as either president or prime minister, and does not belong to any designated party.

But he visited the headquarters of United Russia with Mr Medvedev after the vote to congratulate activists on their victory.

"We know that life is hard for people, there are lots of problems, lots of unresolved problems," Mr Putin said. "Nevertheless, we have this result."

Despite Russia's economic malaise and tensions with the West over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, some observers called the election campaign the dullest in recent memory.

Serious irregularities were reported in one Siberian region, with suggestions of "carousel" voting - people bussed around polling stations - in the city of Barnaul.

Monitoring group Golos said it received more than 1300 complaints from around the country by late afternoon, AP reported.

For the first time, people voted in Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in a move condemned internationally.

Voting was set to finish at 8pm on Sunday in the country's western timezone.

- BBC / Reuters

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs