Moscow, Dec 5 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party failed Sunday to win a majority in legislative elections as per exit polls.
Exit polls showed confounding forecasts and confirming waning popular enthusiasm for the country's dominant political organisation.
United Russia won 46 percent of the vote for seats in the new State Duma, the lower house of parliament, according to the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), a Kremlin-favoured polling institution, according to exit poll results broadcast on the NTV national television network.
Results from another exit poll conducted by the Russia Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM), also broadcast on Rossiya-24 just after 9.00 p.m. when the last polls closed in the westernmost Russian exclave of Kaliningrad showed United Russia picked up 48.5 percent of the vote.
Both polls put the Communist party in second place, with FOM putting their support at 21 percent and VTsIOM placing it at 19.8 percent.
The first official vote-count results were not expected to be published until later Sunday or early Monday.
But the first indications provided by the exit polls stunned observers of the vote in which the United Russia party, the political organization with which Putin has been closely associated for the past decade, was widely expected to capture a majority of seats in the new State Duma.
'This brings in a risk of the second round in the presidential elections in March, which the Kremlin would not like to happen,' said Yevgeny Minchenko, a political analyst. 'It will depend upon whom other parties nominate and how well they campaign.'
Moreover, now the United Russia that had enjoyed a 70-percent majority in the previous Duma, will have to negotiate with other parties over different issues, including their nominations and the distribution of powers within the lower chamber of parliament.
Voter surveys conducted in the run-up to Sunday's elections had forecast that United Russia, which has enjoyed a Constitutional majority for the past four years, was likely to fare worse in this vote.
None predicted, however, that the party would not win the simple majority.