Putin's United Russia Party won its largest majority in the State Duma ever. It captured 343 out of 450 seats with 99 percent of the votes counted. This is a large enough majority to allow Putin to be able to change the constitution if he wishes.
International observers criticized the political restrictions on the campaign. Likka Kanerva, special co-ordinator for monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe(OSCE) said that while the election was carried out with "improved transparency and trust", the campaign was "negatively affected by restrictions of fundamental freedoms and political rights, firmly controlled media and a tightening grip on civil society".The four parties that passed the 5 percent support mark and were able to gain seats in the Duma were: United Russia with 54.2 percent, Communist Party 13.4 percent, Liberal Democratic Party 13.2 percent and Fair Russia 6.2 percent.
In spite of a recession which is the longest in two decades, Putin and United Russia remain popular. Russian action in Crimea and the Ukraine has actually resulted in an increase in Russian nationalism and support for Putin. Putin said that Russia did not need any "shock therapy" to come out of the recession but balanced economic and social reforms. However, the recession has taken its toll on Putin's popularity which peaked at 60 percent 18 months ago but is now about 40 percent as there has been a steep decline in average income of Russians.
The Kremlin tried to avoid fraud allegations by appointing long-time human rights advocate, Ella Pamfilova to head the election commission and also 500 OSCE monitors observed the election. Kanerva of the OSCE said that there were procedural irregularities at vote counts, and local authorities did not always treat contestants equally. Some state employees complained there was pressure on them to vote for United Russia.
Turnout was low compared to previous elections at 48 percent. In 2011 the turnout was 60 percent. United Russia won over three quarters of the seats in the Duma as compared to just over half in the 2011 election. In spite of the gain in seats almost 4 million fewer Russians voted for United Russia this election. There were especially low turnouts in Moscow and St. Petersburg. There appear to be no signs of the street protests that erupted after the 2011 election.
The win will probably encourage Putin to run for a fourth term for president. Putin said it was too early to say if he would run for president in 2018.
While Egypt does not outright give support for Assad, an Egyptian official told AP that the Assad regime "must be part of the negotiations and the transitional period." The opposition members who would agree to this are no doubt few in number and any political agreement might have very little effect on the battles taking place in Syria. The tightly controlled press in Egypt and Saudi Arabia lambasted each other for their respective positions on Syria.
Egypt is obviously trying to develop its own more independent foreign policy that is distressing not just to the US but US ally Saudi Arabia as well.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
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