September 19, 2016 / 5:56 AM / 3 years ago

Putin-backed party on course to win more than half of vote in parliament election

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister and Chairman of the United Russia party Dmitry Medvedev and secretary of the United Russia party's General Council Sergei Neverov visit the party's campaign headquarters following a parliamentary election in Moscow, Russia, September 18, 2016. Sputnik/Pool/Ekaterina Shtukina via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The United Russia party backed by President Vladimir Putin has won 54.2 percent of the vote in a parliamentary election, based on the 90 percent of ballots counted by Monday morning, data from the election commission showed.

The continued dominance of the lower house by United Russia, the party Putin founded and which is now run by his allies, is important for the president, who is widely expected to seek a new term in office in 2018.

In the 2011 election for the lower house, or State Duma, United Russia won 49 percent of the vote.

However, nationwide turnout in Sunday’s polls was a modest 47 percent, which analysts attribute largely to apathy among the many Russians disenchanted by the hardships of an economic slowdown made worse by Western sanctions over Ukraine.

United Russia benefits from its association with 63-year-old Putin, who after 17 years in power as either president or prime minister, enjoys a personal approval rating of about 80 percent, opinion polls show.

Most voters do not see any viable alternative to Putin and his allies, and they fear a return to the chaos and instability of the 1990s, the period immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, if his rule ends.

The Communist party was in second place with 13.5 percent of the vote, outstripping the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democrats on 13.3 percent. The Just Russia party won 6.2 percent, according to the incomplete vote count.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Dmitry Soloyov; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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