The United Russia party backed by President Vladimir Putin is heading for a big victory in parliamentary elections. But, as Kate King reports, the struggling economy - hit by sanctions and low oil prices - may have put off some voters
Russian President Vladimir Putin's grip on power firmly in place, after his political allies secured a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. The ruling United Russia party set to grab at least seats 343 seats of the 450 available in the Duma - Russia's lower house. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "It is hard, it is difficult, but people still vote for the United Russia. I think what does this tell us? First of all it tells us that people see that the representatives of the United Russia are really doing their best for the people." One of the reasons it could be 'hard' for voters is Russia's economy. A slowdown exacerbated by western sanctions and falling oil prices has seen Russia dipping into its emergency fund. It's shrunk from 87 billion dollars to just 30 billion. And on Friday its central bank cut interest rates again. (SOUNDBITE ) INDEPENDENT MARKET ANALYST, JEREMY BATSTONE-CARR SAYING: "It's certainly fair to say that the Russian economy is hardly going gangbusters isn't it, of course in the financial markets it's never a case of what you know but what you don't know and the Russian economy is expected to emerge from recession in 2017." So after two years of recession, the worst may be over for the economy. But the parliamentary victory isn't necessarily an endorsement of Putin and his policies. Voters were given few viable alternatives and record low turn-out suggests support may be waning. (SOUNDBITE) ORGANISATION FOR SECURITY AND COOPERATION FOR EUROPE SPOKESMAN, IIKKA KANERVA SAYING: "Democratic commitments continue to be challenged as the electoral environment was negatively affected by restrictions to fundamental freedoms and political rights, firmly controlled media and a tightening grip on civil society." Putin expected to run for a fourth term as President. He'll see the result as a vote of confidence - not that he needs that after 17 years in power.