MOSCOW--Russia's ruling United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, has lost one third of its seats in the Moscow city assembly, final polling data cited by Russian news agencies showed on Monday, in an awkward setback for the Kremlin.
However, the party retained its majority in the Moscow assembly following Sunday's nationwide local elections, and its candidates for regional governor appeared to have won in St Petersburg and in 15 other parts of the vast country.
The outcome of the local elections was closely watched in Moscow after the exclusion of many opposition candidates triggered the biggest protests there in nearly a decade. Public anger over more than five years of falling incomes and an unpopular hike in the pension age also helped fuel the Moscow protests, with the Communist Party benefiting most in Sunday's polls from the discontent.
Putin's spokesman told reporters the Kremlin thought United Russia had done well despite the setback in Moscow. "The party showed its political leadership," said the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
Prominent opposition politician Alexei Navalny and his allies saw the Moscow poll as an opportunity to make inroads against United Russia ahead of a national parliamentary election in 2021. Navalny's close allies were among those excluded from the Moscow vote and he had advised supporters to vote tactically for the candidates with the best chance of defeating United Russia. He saw the results as vindicating his strategy, though other activists were unhappy that he had asked people to hold their noses and vote for parties that cooperate with the Kremlin.
United Russia won 25 of the Moscow assembly's 45 seats, final data showed. In the last Moscow election in 2014, United Russia performed better, winning 28 seats in its own name and a further 10 through independent candidates whom it had backed.
This time round, all of its Moscow candidates rebranded as independents in an apparent effort to distance themselves from their party, whose popularity is at a more than decade-long low. The Communist Party won 13 seats on Sunday, up from five, at the expense of United Russia, the data showed. The opposition Yabloko Party won four seats, and the Fair Russia Party three.