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Putin's United Russia dominates regional elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin's party took nearly every regional seat in Sunday's elections, but most analysts say that the results were probably an accurate reflection of public sentiment.

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A man leaves a voting booth during local elections in the Moscow suburb of Khimki on Oct. 14. Russian regional elections have tightened Vladimir Putin's grip on power and underlined opposition failure to build street protest into an effective challenge at the start of the president's six-year term.

Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

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Pro-Kremlin candidates swept the field Sunday in thousands of local elections, which opposition leaders allege were marred by fraud. However, most analysts say they are probably an accurate reflection of the country's mood.

More than 4,800 Russian localities held polls Sunday, including five regions that saw direct gubernatorial elections for the first time since President Vladimir Putin suspended direct voting for governors eight years ago. With most votes counted on Monday, it was clear that the pro-Kremlin United Russia party had nabbed all five gubernatorial spots, and won handy majorities in most regional and city legislatures that were up for grabs.

"This was more of a defeat for the opposition than a victory for United Russia," says Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow. "The opposition needs to learn a lot of lessons, and the authorities would make a big mistake if they become complacent."

Mr. Putin seized on the results as an affirmation of the rightness of his course. "In my view these election results are not unexpected," he said in a meeting with the head of the Central Election Commission on Monday. "I think it is just one more step that confirms the intentions of voters to support the existing institutions of power, and the way Russian state politics are developing."

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