Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party suffered a sharp drop in support in Sunday's parliamentary elections, winning nearly half of the vote but falling far short of the majority it has enjoyed for years, early results showed, RIA Novosti informed.

With the votes from about 94 percent of polling stations counted, the ruling United Russia party is now slightly below the 50-percent mark with 49.69 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.

Throughout the night, United Russia's vote count hovered around the 50 percent mark.

That would be good enough to retain a narrow majority of Duma seats, including United Russia's pro rata share of votes cast for parties that did not pass the 7-percent threshold. But the result still marks 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.

Putin, appeared at party campaign headquarters after early results were announced and described the vote as an “optimal” outcome.

Standing alongside President Dmitry Medvedev told supporters that the results of Sunday’s voting “really reflect the situation in the country.”

He said the Duma election would pave the way for “steady development of Russia” in the years ahead.

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.”

Vadym Karasyov, political scientist:

The results of "United Russia" show that the people cannot be tricked. It is also a proof of moral and physical ware of the current construction of the Russian power and lack of trust.

- Neither manipulations, nor falsifications can change raising negative attitude towards the ruling tandem. It means that if the ruling tandem does not draw a lesson from the parliamentary elections, Russia will enter the space of serious changes and possible convulsions. There will be either reforms from the top or a revolution from the bottom.

For Ukraine it means two variants of development of events. Either the revolutionary impulse will come to Ukraine, or Russia will be so occupied with itself that Ukraine will have free hands to make final European choice and to sign Association agreement on December 19.

Andrey Okara, expert - political scientists (RF)

- Vladimir Putin and Dmitriy Medvedev don't need constitutional majority. They are happy with simple parliamentary majority, as there is no need in adoption of Constitutional changes. Everything they need they can get anyway.

The results reveal people's trust in the authorities. The question is how adequate the results of United Russia are. In electoral districts with the lowest level of violations United Russia suffers low results. For example in Khabarovsk region United Russia gained 36%, but there were no serious violations registered, while in other regions the situation is different.

How will they create constitutional majority in the parliament? First of all, there will be no problems with Just Russia of Sergey Mironov or with the nationalist Liberal Democrats (LDPR) of Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Secondly, as I said, there is no need in constitutional majority now. Besides, the State Duma of Russia is not a place for discussions, as its speaker Boris Gryzlov once said.

Boris Nemtsov, co-chairman of the party of People's freedom (Russia):

- For the last twenty years these are the dirtiest, most odious and falsified elections in Russia.

We have thousands of facts of unprecedented pressure on voters, manipulations, forged protocols and ballot-stuffing. We have thousand of facts when observers were kicked out from the electoral stations, and when ballot boxes were stuffed before the elections.

We do not recognize these elections. We believe that this Duma is illegal, and that all decision to be made will have no legal force in the county. We also believe Russia should urgently hold early parliamentary elections.

Anatoly Baranov, independent Russian political scientists, deputy director of Institute of globalization problems:

- In fact, I am very sad because my forecast has come true.

First of all, there were no elections as they are. Election means free expression of will, which could not be observed on Sunday, December 4. To provide "calm elections" Moscow authorities called 51 thousand police officers. As reference, only 41 thousand were needed to bring troops in Afghanistan. The center of the capital was closed; police conducted preventive arrests of activists of non-systemic opposition, bursting into their houses without any orders. The public poll on our website showed that 1.5 thousand respondents daily believe the elections were not free.

What has happened in reality? First of all the choice was limited to 9 parties, majority of which are annoying and corruptive no less than the ruling party United Russia.

Voting turnout was lower than usual, given the fact that state officials, militaries and detainees were literally forced to vote. Even the winners recognize the fact of low appearance, saying that the real appearance was 15% lower than the announced official one.

Here is a funny fact, that in the central Russia the ruling party gained the most votes in mental hospitals.

In general the results are simply from fairy tales. For example, with a 99.5 percent voter turnout at 456 polling stations, United Russia received support of 607,909 voters in Chechnya, which makes 99.48 percent of total votes in the North Caucasus republic. But we all know how this result was obtained.

Unbelievable results were showed by other three subjects of the Federation. In Chukotka, if to believe the official results, all the Chukchi took their dog sleds and arrived to electoral districts to vote almost unanimously for United Russia. Mordovia, where we have mostly prison camps, and Tuva also showed almost 100% turnout.

The position of the international observers was also rather faery. Taking into account the fact that there were only 650 international observers for 94 000 electoral districts (which means about 150 districts for one observer) already at 10 am we learned the opinion of the polish side on that the elections in Russia were fair and democratic. It is obvious that Europe is fine with such situation in Russia. Mr. Putin provides Europe with hydrocarbon, and Europe wants quiet situation in Russia. And Europe does not care how this quietness is obtained.

The parliamentary opposition is also happy. It has already made a statement, according to which it does not intend to challenge the results despite the big number of violations. Nobody wants to refuse the money.

Now we observe the conservation of the regime: the victory of United Russia was predetermined, and Putin will become the next president.

Volodymyr Kornilov, director of Ukrainian branch of CIS Institute:

- Everybody is concerned about constitutional majority, but forgets about parliamentary majority.
During last elections the Russian parties were fighting for constitutional majority, just because the Russian authorities and United Russia had Constitutional changes on the agenda. Now they don't.

Also don't forget that United Russia can find common language with any party if it wants to. Anyway, United Russia keeps the majority seats in the parliament, and it is a good result for a ruling party, taking into account world-wide crisis.

I believe Untied Russia has got the result it was counting on. There was no miracle for the better, or for the worse.

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