MOSCOW — Russia’s ruling party has swept local elections that were seen as a dress rehearsal for the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential votes, but its performance has been weaker than in the past, according to early returns released yesterday.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party emerged as the top vote-getter in all 12 regions where elections to local legislatures were held Sunday, but it received less than half of the ballots in seven of them.
Putin said the vote results were “more than satisfactory’’ and insisted that the vote demonstrated people’s trust in the government. “That means that people, even though many of them are tired and feel pressure, continue to positively assess the government’s actions and express hope by this vote that the situation will change,’’ Putin said.
United Russia also won elections to city legislatures held in 10 provincial capitals.
It is widely believed Putin, who served as president in 2000-2008, is seeking to reclaim the post in next year’s presidential vote after his protégé Dmitry Medvedev’s four-year presidential term ends.
United Russia, which has most top government officials among its members, has dominated the federal Parliament and holds the majority of seats in most regional legislatures across the country.
The party won a combined total of 68 percent of seats in regional legislatures. However, that was weaker than in the previous round of regional elections last October, when it won 76 percent. Some observers said the party’s mixed showing in some regions reflected growing public disillusionment with the government.