With 60% of the ballots counted, results show Vladimir Putin’s ruling party making steady gains following a poor start.
United Russia have now snuck up to a 50.1% share of the vote, and although this represents a fall in support from the 64% won in 2007, it puts the party within touching distance of being able to form a majority government.
They also maintain a clear lead over the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) who have 19.49%, While A Fair Russia are now just ahead of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), leading them by 12.85% to their 11.95%.
It is these four parties who will be represented in parliament, as the others have not made the 5-7% minimum share required.
For those who were billing this as a referendum on Putin - who will run for president next year - it shows that many Russians have turned away from him.
Vladimir Rzyhkov, head of the Republican Party of the Russian Federation, which has been disallowed since 2007 said:
“These elections are unprecedented because they were carried out against the background of a collapse in trust in Putin, Medvedev and the ruling party. This is the most important political circumstance. I think that the March (presidential) election will turn into an even bigger political crisis, disappointment, frustration, with even more dirt and disenchantment, and an even bigger protest vote.”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the result is a sign of strengthening democracy in the country, and said United Russia would now be looking for coalition partners.
Earlier the man in charge of United Russia’s day to day running said the party still hopes for a majority of seats in the lower house of the Russian parliament, despite exit poll results.
“We are watching and hope that we shall get a majority of the mandates in the Duma,” said Boris Gryzlov, head of the party’s supreme council. “We can say that United Russia remains the ruling party.”
Two major exit polls showed United Russia with a big decline in support, winning less than half of the votes cast, putting its majority in doubt.
The result from state pollster VTsIOM, showed Putin’s United Russia had won the most seats with 48.5%. This would give the party just 220 of the 450 state Duma seats, a massive decline from the 315 seats they won in 2007.
Other exit poll results showed (CPRF) 19.8%, (LDPR) 11.42%, Yabloko 4.17%, the Patriots of Russia (0.9%) and right-wing party Right Cause with 1.1%.
It appears that there have also been a large number of protests votes with 23.8% of voters choosing to place a blank ballot in the ballot box. Preliminary figures showed overall turnout at 50.4% from 63% in 2007, although official results will be out on Monday.
Russian Elections: Latest results