With United Russia having gotten roughly the vote and half the seats in the Russian parliament, the implications for Prime Minister Putin and his United Russia party are profound and obvious.
First and most important, it is clear that Putin has, in large measure, lost the consent of the government. Make no mistake about it-- this was a rigged election. Parties were blocked from participating, those that could had their ability to communicate with voters strictly limited, election monitoring was strictly limited, and those that tried to insure a fair process and a far account were either hacked, harassed or obstructed. Thus, half of Russia, in an election that was demonstrably not fair, voted against what's called "the party of power."
In a fair election, it is almost certain Prime Minister Putin's United Russia Party would have either lost or seen their vote reduced by a substantial measure.
All of this has substantial implications for Russia's future-- both domestically and internationally.
Domestically, one can except that in the run up to March's presidential election, that the government will be more, rather than less, restrictive. Put simply, with the country now aware of the breadth and depth of the widespread dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Putin, there is every reason to believe they will do everything they can to avoid allowing any other demonstrations of organized discontent with ruling party prior to the March presidential vote. That means more restrictions on demonstrations, more authoritarian policies, less transparency.
Internationally, in the waning days of the campaign, Prime Minister Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, both were more nationalistic and more hostile to American and Western interests. This can be expected to continue. There are no votes and there is no support in currying a favor with the West. Indeed, Russians with a historic sense of inferiority toward Europe and the United States, can be excepted to be more hostile, nationalistic, and adversarial in their foreign policy, both in the Middle East and around the world.
Put simply, a weakened united Russia means an emboldened Russian nation.
More generally, it is not lost on the Kremlin that their credibility has been reduced, and reduced substantially. They lack the consent of the governed, and while Prime Minister Putin called the results "optimal" from the point of democracy, the looks on the faces of President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin reveled the sense of uneasiness, and perhaps even panic, that ran through their minds as the votes were counted.
Make no mistake. The Russian elections demonstrate the large scale dissatisfaction the Russian populous faces with an increasingly authoritarian anti-democratic government. In the absence of an economic revitalization the regime can be expected to lose more and more support and to respond accordingly.
Douglas E. Schoen is a Democratic pollster and strategist. He is a Fox News contributor and the author of several books. His latest book is “The Political Fix: Changing the Game of American Democracy, From the Grass Roots to the White House.”