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News Analysis: Why Russians chose United Russia?
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15:45, December 03, 2007

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In Russia's fifth elections for State Duma, the lower house of parliament, the United Russia party swept some 63 percent of ballots and secured an overwhelming majority.

The widely expected victory caused no surprise, but a dominating party will, as analysts believe, help stick to the development path blazed by President Vladimir Putin for the nation, even after he steps down next year.

PUTIN'S VICTORY

Despite his non-member status, Putin is widely believed to have contributed far more than any of the 1-million-odds members of the United Russia party. He led the party in the run-on and attracted vast numbers of votes with his popularity.

By the end of election campaigns last Thursday, Putin made a television address asking voters to cast ballots for United Russia in the elections and said it will set the tune for next March's president elections.

"The country is entering a period of complete renewal of the top legislative and executive power. In this situation, it is especially important for us to secure continuity of the course and fulfill all obligations to people," he said.

In response, more than 60 percent of the 108 million eligible voters cast their ballots in Sunday's elections, setting a new turnout record in many years.

These ballots are estimated to help United Russia secure some 310 seats in the 450-seat State Duma.

In fact, United Russia has always supported President Putin since it was established in December 2001.

The party has grown into a core power in Russia's parliament since its last victory in December 2003, when it gained 37 percent of votes, twice as much as the second largest party in the parliament, the Communist Party.

In the last four years, United Russia supported all of Putin's policies in various fields such as politics, economy, military and social development, thus winning Putin's trust and swelling the party's membership.

At present, with more than 50,000 grassroots branches and over 1 million members, United Russia has emerged as the largest party in the country.

"This was a risky moment for Putin. He raised the issue of vote of confidence to him, and he received such a vote," said Effective Policy Foundation head Gleb Pavlovsky.

DECLINING OPPOSITION

Compared with 23 contending parties in the last race for State Duma, only 11 joined the race this year, thanks to internal difference. The flourishing United Russia and a new law which regulates activities of political parties have combined to raise the threshold for entering parliament.

Only four among the 11 parties have won enough ballots to cross the 7 percent threshold to get a seat in the parliament and none of them belongs to the right-wing bloc.

Besides United Russia, the other three parties include the Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Fair Russia.

"Why will I vote for the Communist Party? Because it will possibly be the only real opposition in the parliament," said a middle-aged voter who only gave his name as Dmitry at a Moscow polling station on election day.

"A broad national coalition should now form around Putin and based on it Putin will play his national leadership role. The choice's referendum nature has been confirmed," Itar-Tass quoted Dmitry Ivanov, director general of the Agency of Political Technologies, as saying.

WHAT NEXT?

United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov, also State Duma Speaker, said his party will focus on eliminating poverty and raising pension in the new State Duma.

But what more can it, along with the other pro-Kremlin parties, do with such a margin of majority in the parliament? Analysts believe the seats of pro-Putin parties will be enough to amend the constitution which bans Putin from presidency after two consecutive terms.

Prior to the elections, Putin said United Russia's victory would give him a "moral right" to influence policy after he steps down next year. But he did not specify what position he will take to contribute to the nation.

Source: Xinhua



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