Blow to Putin as exit polls show support for United Russia falling

TWO exit polls have shown that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ruling party suffered a big decline in support in a parliamentary election yesterday, winning less than half of votes cast.

According to the poll from state pollster VTsIOM, Putin’s United Russia party won 48.5 per cent of the vote followed by the Communists with 19.8 per cent, LDPR with 11.4 per cent and Just Russia with 12.8 per cent.

An exit poll by FOM shown on state television showed United Russia won 46 per cent, a result which the pollster projected would give the party just 220 of the 450 State Duma seats, far below the 315 seats it won in the last election in 2007.

If confirmed, the result is a considerable blow to Putin because the election was widely seen as a test of his personal authority before his planned return to the presidency next year.

“We are watching and hope that we shall get a majority of the mandates in the Duma,” Boris Gryzlov, head of the party’s supreme council, told reporters. “We can say that United Russia remains the ruling party.”