Putin’s United Russia Party Suffers Poll Defeat

Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party was handed a rude wake-up call on Sunday when it lost close to 80 seats in Parliamentary elections that international observers say was fraught with widespread irregularities.

Partial results released Monday showed United Russia maintaining its control of 450-seat State Duma, the country’s Lower House of Congress, with an estimated 238 seats. The victory, however, may be considered a huge disappointment by United Russia leaders as the opposition is expected to gain at least 77 seats. The election debacle comes months before Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attempts to get his old post in March presidential elections. Communist Russia, the biggest opposition party, was expected to win 92 seats. The Communists will likely field party leader Gennady Zyuganov against Putin in next year’s presidential elections.

Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the elections, reportedly found various violations of electoral rules that may have given United Russia undue advantage. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also raised concern about the poll fraud allegations, saying that a full investigation should be conducted. However, President Dmitry Medvedev denied all allegations. According to Medvedev, the elections were “fair, honest, and democratic.”