Putin's United Russia party suffers poll setback
Early returns from Russia's parliamentary polls point to a sharp drop in support for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.With 75% of ballots counted, the Central Election Commission said United Russia had 50% of the vote, down from 64% in 2007.
The vote is being seen as a popularity test of Mr Putin, who is running for the presidency in March.
Opposition parties have complained of violations of election laws.
Russia's only independent monitoring group, Golos, says it has logged 5,300 complaints alleging violations of election laws.
'Violations and fraud'
If the result is confirmed, United Russia could lose its current two-thirds majority which allowed it to change the constitution unchallenged.
Nonetheless, party chairman Boris Gryzlov says the party hopes to get a majority in the Duma.
The election commission said the Communist Party was in second place with 19.3% of the vote.
A Just Russia was in third place with 13% and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) had 11.8%, the election commission said.
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