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Putin's Party Wins In Russia Regional Assemblies

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia's dominant United Russia party won its first electoral test during the economic crisis, according to provisional results for regional assemblies.

United Russia, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, polled between 49 percent and 79 percent in the nine local assemblies contested, with a large majority of ballots counted, the Central Electoral Commission press service told Reuters on March 2.

The opposition Communist Party came in a distant second place. The pro-Kremlin Liberal Democrats and Fair Russia were also set to win seats in assemblies, though it was not immediately clear who came in third place.

The Kremlin created United Russia as its main political machine during Putin's 2000-2008 term as president. It already dominates the national parliament and media.

In addition to the regional votes, there are 3,600 separate elections taking place across the country for the mayors of some major towns and most town and village councils.

Neither Putin nor President Dmitry Medvedev is directly involved in the polls, and the country's two biggest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, did not vote. Around 20 million Russians out of a 142 million population were eligible to cast their ballots.

Millions of Russians have lost their jobs and the ruble has slumped against the dollar in the crisis, ending a 10-year boom which underpinned support for Medvedev and Putin.