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Russians Vote in Regional Elections

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TEHRAN, March 14 (ICANA) – Russians have gone to the polls to elect more than 20,000 local members of parliament and heads of municipal administrations.
Monday, March 14, 2011 10:06:44 AM
Russians Vote in Regional Elections

Polls in 74 out of 83 Russian regions opened on Sunday morning for more than 24 million people to vote in the regional elections, RIA Novosti reported.

Early returns show that United Russia led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is on course for victory in the elections, which are widely viewed as a litmus test for the United Russia's popularity among voters ahead of the country's parliamentary and presidential polls.

According to Central Election Commission, the United Russia is ahead with 72.5 percent of votes in Chukotka, on the Bering Strait in Russia's far east.

However, preliminary results indicate that the ruling party is facing uphill struggle to win in some other provinces, including the poor Kirov region in the northeast of European part of Russia, where the Communists were faring better.

Reports say the party is faring significantly better in a handful of regions further west, with 40 percent to 70 percent of the votes.

The pro-Kremlin United Russia party, the opposition A Just Russia party, Liberal Democrats and Communists, all of which have factions in Russia's lower house of parliaments, are participating in the elections.

The Sunday's election was held against the backdrop of rising inflation, high unemployment rates, as well as a growing disenchantment among opposition groups, who have accused Putin of muzzling opponents and curbing civil rights.

The Russian Public Opinion Research Center says support for the ruling United Russia party has slipped below 50 percent.

The opposition groups have also accused the ruling party of vote rigging for 12 regional legislatures and dozens of municipal contests.

Meanwhile, independent election monitoring group, Golos, stated on Sunday that it has become increasingly difficult to monitor polls in Russia.

More than 400 of its observers gave up after they were contacted by police and the Russian Federal Security Service.

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