With 70% of the votes counted in Russia's parliamentary elections, something odd is happening: Putin's United Russia party has seen a major drop in popularity from the two thirds constitutional majority it held over the past 4 years, and will likely not even have an absolute majority in parliament, forcing it to form a coalition government with less than 50% of the vote going its way. The vote comes at a sensitive time for Russia which has lately seen verbal escalation with NATO and the west, going so far as to put various radar installations on combat alert, and attempting to expand its zone of influence into Iran. As RIA Novosti reports, "Sunday’s vote was considered an important test for Putin ahead of the presidential election next March and analysts said the reduced support for United Russia increased the likelihood that Putin, who remains the most popular politician in Russia, may not win outright in the first round. "It will depend upon whom other parties nominate and how well they campaign,” political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko said. He added, however, that the mitigated outcome for United Russia would force the party accustomed to passing legislation without regard for support from others to negotiate and cooperate with competing political parties. “By all means, this is good for the development of political culture in Russia,” Minchenko said." One thing is certain" the biggest winners from today's turnout are the former Communsits, the CPRF party, which has about 20% of the vote, or a doubling in popularity by Russian widely becoming dissatisfied with the Putin approach to power.
More from Reuters: "Just 20 years ago, they seemed consigned to the dustbin of history. At Sunday's parliamentary polls, Russia's communists drew students, intellectuals, even some businessmen in forging an opposition to Vladimir Putin's wounded United Russia party. The Communist Party (CPRF) for most Russians evokes images of bemedalled war veterans and the elderly poor deprived of pensions and left behind in a "New Russia" of glitzy indulgence. Large swathes of society have appeared beyond the reach of the red flag and hammer and sickle." Ironically for many a vote for communism has become a vote against the corruption and authoritarianism many associated with the Putin control: "With sadness I remember how I passionately vowed to my grandfather I would never vote for the Communists," Yulia Serpikova, 27, a freelance location manager in the film industry, told Reuters. "It's sad that with the ballot in hand I had to tick the box for them to vote against it all." And while there is still a substantial buffer from the ruling party, how much longer until nostalgia for the old days grips the bulk of the population and, by means peaceful or not, Putin is replaced by someone far more appearling to the Russian grass roots dissatisfaction?
The voter turn out at last check:
More from RIA:
With more than 67 percent of the ballots counted, the ruling United Russia party had picked up nearly half (49.93 percent) – a far cry from the commanding two-thirds constitutional majority the party has held in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, for the past four years, according to the official count.
If born out by the full vote count, the result would mark a major electoral setback for the political party that Putin leads and that has been the dominant political organization in Russia for much of the past decade.
The Communist Party (KPRF) has 19.45 percent, the moderate A Just Russia got 12.97 percent and the nationalist Liberal Democrats (LDPR), 11.91 percent. Voter turnout was above 50 percent, according to preliminary results.
Both Putin and Medvedev appeared intent on emphasizing the legitimacy of the election and the balance of political forces it would yield in the next Duma, with Medvedev saying that United Russia had run a convincing campaign and even a 50-percent result “testifies to real democracy.”
Medvedev acknowledged, however, that United Russia, long able to impose its will on the national legislature with or without the support of other political parties, “will have to join coalition bloc agreements” in order to get its legislation through the Duma.
“This is normal, that is what parliamentarianism is,” Medvedev said. “That is democracy, and our colleagues and leaders of the relevant fractions said that they were ready for that.”
The elections were punctuated by thousands of claims of violations both from independent observers and the government, with the Interior Ministry alone announcing it had received and would investigate more than 1,000 complaints of irregularities.
And Reuters on Russia's longing for a more normal past:
In a bizarre flip, today's communists have benefited from satire on Russia's vibrant blogosphere comparing Putin's party to the all powerful Communist Party of Soviet times.
One popular image shows Putin's face aged and superimposed on a portrait of doddering Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, mocking the prime minister's plan to return to the presidency in March for two possible terms until 2024.
Voters wary of United Russia said their decision was purely a matter of cold electoral arithmetic, backing the party most likely to cross a seven percent threshold and win enough seats to act as a counterweight to Putin's party.
"I am voting against Putin, to weaken his party, so it makes sense to vote for a party that will make it in," Sergei Yemilianov, 46, a mathematics professor, said.
Analyst Masha Lipman of the Moscow Carnegie Center described votes gained by the Communist Party as "similar to writing a four letter word on the ballot."
"It's a sign of defiance," she told Reuters. "The government has turned this election into a farce and in response people are turning their electoral choice into a travesty."
One communist lawmaker hailed the victory as "a new political reality" on Sunday evening.
"They are a different party than in Soviet times," Anna, 21, a student of mechanics at the Moscow State University, said. "I have a lot of friends who are activists for the Communists Party. It's become popular."
Young Communist Party deputy Yuri Afonov, 34, told Reuters by telephone from Tambov that people were upset with the political order and many saw the Internet as the only place in which real opinions were voiced.
The Communist Party may be a long way from fundamentally changing its image. Its success may reflect disenchantment with Putin and his party far more than a new yen for communist order.
But one contributor to the Communist Party's chat forum offered a new genre of 'communist cool' with a rap composition.
"Want to get back what they took from me
Free schooling ain't no free lunch
Free medicine is my right, you see
What matters to you? Whose side you on?
Want to help your country
So it's our choice and it's our rap
So we go vote for the CPRF"
Come to think of it, in America they also rap about communism...