Pro-Kremlin party suffers rare defeat in local election

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a "common platform for collective action" against Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq (AFP Photo/Alexei Nikolsky) (Ria Novosti/AFP)

Moscow (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin's ruling party suffered a rare election defeat on Sunday when its candidate for governor of the Irkutsk region of Siberia lost to a Communist candidate.

With 90 percent of ballots counted, Sergei Levchenko had won 56.9 percent of the vote compared to 40.9 percent for interim governor Sergei Yeroshchenko of United Russia garnered 40.9 percent.

The head of the local electoral commission, Eduard Devitsky, said the votes that remained to be counted would not influence the final result.

United Russia acknowledged the defeat of its candidate.

During the first round of voting on September 13, when local elections in 83 regions were won broadly by United Russia, the Irkutsk governor just failed to receive the 50-percent minimum to be returned to office, while Levchenko garnered just 36.6 percent.

But since then, Yeroshchenko has done little campaigning while the Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov visited the region to support his candidate.

The Communist Party, which has remained powerful since the fall of the Soviet Union, has been marginalised since Putin came to power.

Like other parties in parliament, it rarely criticises decisions of the ruling party and almost always votes for bills presented by the government.

But the anti-Putin opposition is virtually absent from national media, and is the target of lawsuits.

In the September 13 polls, the RPR-Parnas opposition coalition fielded just two candidates, in the rural Volga region of Kostroma, after other regions disqualified its candidates.