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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 12:30 GMT
Q&A: Russian elections
Vladimir Zhirinovsky
Ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the LDPR did well
Russians went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new parliament. BBC News Online explains why this election is important and how the system works.

Which party won?

Voters appear to have favoured the party backed by President Vladimir Putin, United Russia. This means that a pro-Kremlin party may have a majority in parliament for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

What will this change?

Not much. United Russia already chaired most of the key committees in parliament, even though the Communist Party had more seats.

What does the result say about Russia's future direction?

Firstly, it suggests that President Vladimir Putin will be re-elected with a resounding majority in the presidential election next spring.

Some analysts are also asking whether it is significant that two nationalist parties, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and the Motherland party, did better than expected - they say Mr Putin could respond to this with a shift to the right.

Was it a fair election?

International observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have said the result was "overwhelmingly distorted" due to a pro-state bias. During the election campaign, state television came under fire from observers for bias in favour of United Russia.

The leader of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, has also alleged that his party's losses are the result of election fraud. However, the head of the central election commission has denied this.

United Russia and the nationalists did well, the Communists did badly. Any other significant results?

Russia's two liberal parties, Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces failed to cross the 5% threshold required to win a share of the seats handed out by proportional representation.

How does the vote work?

The parliament has 450 seats, half of which are allocated by proportional representation, half by voting in constituencies. A party that fails to win seats by proportional representation can still get candidates into parliament via the constituency route.

Does the parliamentary vote affect the make-up of the government?

President Putin said in his state-of-the-nation address this year, that for the first time the government would be formed by the majority group in parliament. It will be easy for him to stick to this promise, now that his favoured party has won.





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