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Monday, 20 December, 1999, 11:24 GMT
Poll boost for Russian PM
Puppets on Russian TV results show
Russian politicians are lampooned in an election results programme
The Russian parliamentary elections look set to give a major boost to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the man he hopes to succeed as president, Boris Yeltsin.

Russia at the Polls
What's at stake
Who's who
Russia's regions
With most of the votes counted, the Unity Party - backed by Yeltsin and Putin - has almost the same share of the poll as the Communists Party in a vote that exceeded all expectations.

Mr Putin is already certain to have the backing of a sizeable group within the Duma, currently dominated by the Communists.

The BBC's Robert Parsons in Moscow says that for the first time since the break-up of the Soviet Union the Kremlin could have a parliament that is on its side.

Unity's performance is well ahead of forecasts. The Union of Rightwing Forces, which also broadly backs Mr Putin, has also done better than expected.


People who voted for Unity also voted for ... Putin

Unity Spokesman Mikhail Margelov
The results are being interpreted as a sign of approval for Mr Putin's policy in Chechnya.

They also suggest he will be tough candidate to beat in June's election to succeed President Yeltsin. Mr Putin is Mr Yeltsin's preferred successor.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin celebrates with Unity party leaders
Unity spokesman Mikhail Margelov said: "People who voted for Unity also voted for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin."

However, observers say Mr Putin's popularity could slump if the Russian military forces suffer setbacks in their fight with the breakaway Chechens.

Share of vote with 84% of results in
Communist Party: 24.2%
Unity: 23.4%
Fatherland-All-Russia: 12.6%
Union of Rightwing Forces: 8.7%
Yabloko: 6.3%
Zhirinovsky Bloc: 6.1%
After the likely outcome became known, Mr Putin made an unexpected visit to the campaign headquarters of the Union of Right-Wing Forces, which is headed by the former premier Sergei Kiriyenko.

He congratulated the party on its performance and said: "This is a very important victory for everyone."

He was also in contact with other party leaders.

Turnout among the roughly 107 million registered voters across the country exceeded 60%.

Boris Yeltsin casting his vote in Moscow.
Some analysts had suggested that voter apathy after an extremely dirty campaign would result in a low turnout.

As he cast his vote, President Yeltsin said he hoped for a "good" parliament.

"Many candidates are excellent hard-working people. Russia needs a Duma that will pass laws and not one that engages in political manoeuvring," he added.

President Yeltsin has repeatedly clashed with the outgoing Communist-dominated parliament over budgets and attempts to impeach him.

Mr Putin said: "One would like very much the new Duma to be efficient and easy to co-operate with in solving the country's acute problems."

Irregularities

Isolated complaints have been received by the Central Electoral Commission of late campaigning and of voters not being informed in good time of the change of address of some polling stations in Moscow.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said they had witnessed "family voting" practices, where the head of a household votes on behalf of the entire family.

Otherwise, no serious violations of the rules have been reported.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rob Parsons
"The Kremlin's friends have done well"
Andrew Harding in Moscow
"The Kremlin is already calling it a revolution"
See also:

20 Dec 99 | Europe
19 Dec 99 | Europe
19 Dec 99 | Europe
20 Dec 99 | Media reports
03 Dec 99 | Europe
13 Dec 99 | Europe
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