President Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party has won a landslide victory that will give the party a huge majority in parliament and ensure Putin remains a key figure in Russian politics long after he leaves the Kremlin early next year.
With almost all ballots counted Monday, UR had won 64 per cent of the votes which, when the votes of losing parties are folded in, will give it a more than two-thirds majority in the State Duma.
Two other parties that support the Kremlin line, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democrats and the Fair Russia Party, won about 8 per cent each. Together the three pro-Kremlin parties will hold a commanding majority of 393 of the Duma's 450 seats.
The only opposition force to hurdle the 7 per cent barrier was Russia's once-mighty Communist Party, which won 11.6 per cent — its smallest share of the vote since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Two liberal parties, Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, trailed far behind with about 1 per cent each.
The Kremlin praised United Russia's victory as a vote for Putin's policies, which ended a decade of decline in the 1990's and brought Russian economic revival, social consolidation and a more assertive foreign policy.
Under Russian law Putin is not allowed to stand for a third term in presidential polls slated for March 2, but has said he will continue to exercise his "moral influence" from his position as leader of the majority party in parliament.
Putin has yet to nominate his own choice for the next president, but he is expected to do that within the next two weeks.
"This electoral result is extremely important from the point of view of continuation of the reforms that have been underway for the past 8 years," Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told journalists on Monday.
But opposition parties said they will file official complaints over an election campaign in which government resources were allegedly lavished on United Russia, and the state-run media gave the lion's share of favorable attention to Putin and his party.
"Under (former President Boris) Yeltsin, there were only two ways to steal peoples' votes — through intimidation and simply writing in the convenient result," Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said.
"This group has come up with 20 ways of humiliating the people," he added.
The joint observer delegation of the organisation for Security and Cooperation and the Council of Europe told a Moscow press conference Monday that the voting failed to meet international standards for free and fair elections.
"The polls took place in an atmosphere which seriously limited political competition," the observers said. "There was not a level playing field."