Vladimir Putin’s ruling party suffered a big drop in support in a parliamentary election on Sunday and was not certain even of holding on to a majority of seats, an exit poll showed.
A first exit poll indicated 48.5% support for the United Russia party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, down from 64% in 2007.
That would give United Russia 220 seats in the new Duma, down from 315.
Russia’s only independent monitoring group, Golos, logged 5,300 complaints alleging violations of election laws and said its website had been hacked.
The Golos monitors, who are not affiliated with any party, are funded largely by the US and EU.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused foreign powers of meddling in election preparations.
Duma members have questioned why the foreign-funded organisation – whose name means “voice” or “vote” – is allowed to monitor Russian elections.
Moscow police said more than 100 people were arrested at an opposition demonstration.
Russians cast their ballots with muted enthusiasm in national parliamentary elections on Sunday, a vote that opinion polls indicate could water down the strength of the party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, despite the government’s relentless marginalisation of opposition groups.
Although Putin and his United Russia party have dominated Russian politics for more than a decade, popular discontent appears to be growing with Putin’s strongman style, widespread corruption among officials and the gap between ordinary Russians and the floridly super-rich.
United Russia holds a two-thirds majority in the outgoing state duma. But a survey last month by the independent Levada Center polling agency indicated the party could get only about 53% of the vote in this election, depriving it of the number of seats necessary to change the constitution unchallenged.
Party leaders have signalled concern, with Putin warning that a parliament with a wide array of parties would lead to political instability and claiming that western governments want to undermine the election. A western-funded independent election-monitoring group has come under strong pressure.