So it looks like Putin has rigged — and won in — yet another Russian election. United Russia appears to have won the parliamentary election overwhelmingly, with turnout up to a suspiciously high 98-99% in some regions. There are many parallels being drawn between Putin's current authoritarian rule and the Soviet era. Come to think of it, Russia — like China — has never really been democratic.
The New York Times:
A day after his party secured an imposing victory in parliamentary elections, President Vladimir V. Putin today declared that the results were a “sign of trust” that had conferred new legitimacy on the government. But European monitors and opposition parties harshly criticized the balloting, saying that it had been neither free nor fair.
The final tally showed that Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia, received 64.1 percent, giving it roughly 315 seats in the 450-seat Duma, or lower house of Parliament, which would be enough votes to amend the constitution. Far behind was the Communist Party, with 11.6 percent, or 57 seats. Two other parties allied with Mr. Putin — the Liberal Democrats and Just Russia — are also to receive seats.
The end of the parliamentary campaign is expected to intensify discussion in Russia about who will be the next president. United Russia is holding a meeting in two weeks at which Mr. Putin might designate a candidate to run in the presidential election in March, and whoever he names will automatically be the front-runner.
Mr. Putin cannot run again because of a constitutional term limits, though United Russia’s strong performance on Sunday renewed speculation that he might ask the Parliament to amend the constitution.
If he does not, what he will do after March remains a mystery. He has said he wants to continue wielding influence over the nation, but how he will do that — and what his relationship will be with the next president — is unclear.
Even as Mr. Putin was hailing the election, European monitors on Monday were taking a different view, contending that there had been “a clear abuse of power and a clear violation of international commitments and standards.”
Luc van den Brande of Belgium, leader of the mission from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said Mr. Putin had improperly used the Kremlin to help United Russia. “There are a lot of concerns about the evolution of democracy in the country,” Mr. van den Brande said.
With the nationalistic Liberal Democratic Party clearing the 7 percent threshold to enter Parliament, one of its new leaders, Andrei K. Lugovoi, is expected to receive a seat.
Mr. Lugovoi is a former K.G.B. officer accused in Britain in the fatal radiation poisoning of Alexander V. Litvinenko. Britain has sought Mr. Lugovoi’s extradition, but Russia has refused. Once he enters Parliament, Mr. Lugovoi would have immunity from prosecution in Russia.
Overall in Russia, the turnout was about 63 percent.
After the rise of Putin and his ex-KGB buddies, it is no surprise Lugovoy, the prime suspect of an important murder investigation (Litvinenko, the Russian dissident and ex-spy killed mysteriously last year in London), is going to win a parliamentary seat, thus making him immune to any investigation.
Election results have been highly contested and the elections, like many of the happenings in modern day Russia, bare resemblance to those of the Soviet era.
President Putin recently replaced the prime minister with a man people know little about, but is suspected as being just another puppet for the president, who cannot run again this coming election as that would exceed term limits. Even though Putin may make an effort for the presidency during 2012 election, the Russian political elite is already working on a successor to the man who has transformed 'new Russia' into a power worthy of respect — or fear — because of its energy resources.