Though Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party lost dozens of seats in Russia's parliament in elections held Sunday, and may have had to resort to fraud to keep from losing even more, he's "still sure to win" election as president next March, Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said on Morning Edition today.
With an approval rating around 70 percent and his party apparatus to support his bid, Putin's "chances are very good" in the spring election, Lipman told NPR's Steve Inskeep. A win would return Putin to the presidential seat he held for two terms before basically arranging to have Dmitry Medvedev take the post in 2008 and keep it warm for him.
But the voting results in parliamentary elections, Lipman and other analysts say, signals that many Russians are tired of the corruption that has been allowed to flourish in the Putin era.
And the results mean that Putin's party will "have little choice but to forge a working relationship with at least some segment of the newly empowered opposition," The New York Times writes. That opposition includes three parties that made gains in the elections — "the Communist Party, the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and Just Russia, a social democratic party."
The Financial Times says "in the long-term, the big loss of support for United Russia bodes ill for prime minister Vladimir Putin's soft authoritarianism." But, it adds, the choices he faces all have potential problems:
-- Ordering the security police "to crack down even harder" on the opposition "would come with the risk of provoking wider protests and damaging Russia's international reputation."
-- Increasing spending on social services could lead to "conflicts within the elite," whose support Putin needs, if that meant there was less money to spread around to the rich.
-- And as for "market-oriented political and economic reforms ... there's little sign that he has such plans up his sleeve."
Sunday's vote, as The Associated Press reports, produced allegations of "ballot-stuffing and other significant violations at the polls," most of them allegedly to benefit Putin's party. And it adds that "the nation's only independent election watchdog has been subjected to a massive official intimidation campaign before the vote and saw its website blocked by what it described as a massive cyber attack it blamed on authorities."