Thousands of police and Interior Ministry troops patrolled central Moscow on Tuesday, an apparent attempt to deter any further protests day after a rally against vote fraud and corruption caught Russian authorities by surprise.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, called his party’s reduced number of seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election an “inevitable” result of voters always being dissatisfied with the party in power. Putin also dismissed allegations of corruption among his United Russia party members, calling it a “cliche” that the party had to fight. In neighboring Lithuania, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton again criticized the Russian election and urged that widespread reports of voting fraud be investigated.
United Russia party won slightly less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to nearly complete preliminary results. Although that gives the party an absolute majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, it is a significant drop from the 2007 election when the party got a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution unchallenged.
Even that smaller majority is seen as questionable in the wake of numerous reports of voting fraud to inflate United Russia’s total. Russian officials, however, have denied any significant vote violations.
Still, the election results reflected public fatigue with Putin’s authoritarian streak and with official corruption in Russia, signaling that his return to the presidency in next March’s election may not be as trouble-free as he expected.