Polls show Russians back crisis plan: Putin's party

Mon Oct 12, 2009 11:18am EDT
 

By Conor Sweeney

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev endorsed on Monday the crushing win by the country's ruling party in local elections that opposition parties and independent observers said were rigged and an omen for the country's future.

Medvedev backed the outcome as proof of the party's moral and legal right to run Russia's regions, even though two months ago he had said "new democratic times are beginning" and promised to break the party's near-monopoly on power.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia was confirmed as the strongest party in just about every poll, retaining power in key locations, including elections for Moscow city lawmakers, the most populous and affluent region.

Putin nominally leads the party which is backed by Medvedev.

Russia has been badly hit by the economic crisis, with GDP set to contract by more than 8.5 percent this year and the number of unemployed nearly 50 percent higher than a year ago, exposing the country's dependence on energy exports for revenue.

Just three opposition lawmakers, all from the Communist Party, were set to enter Moscow's 52-seat parliament, with all other seats going to United Russia, based on forecast results giving it 66 percent of votes but more than 90 percent of seats.

"The party has proved that it has a right, not only moral, but also legal, to form executive administrations in the regions. The outcome of yesterday's elections is convincing proof of that," Medvedev said during talks with party leaders.

Regional, mayoral and district polls were held in 76 of Russia's 83 regions, comprising 30 million voters. Results were still being confirmed on Monday but all showed the same pattern.   Continued...

<p>Russian President Dmitry Medvedev drops his ballot into a ballot box at a polling station in Moscow October 11, 2009. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Vladimir Rodionov</p>