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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin's Decision a Blow to Just Russia

President Vladimir Putin's decision to head up the federal ticket of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in State Duma elections deals a serious blow to the other pro-Kremlin party, A Just Russia, analysts said Monday.

A Just Russia, meanwhile, tried to put a positive spin on Putin's candidacy.

With Putin leading the way, United Russia could capture 70 percent of the vote in the Dec. 2 elections, likely allowing only the Communists and A Just Russia to squeeze past the 7 percent barrier required to make it into the Duma, analysts said.

"United Russia's victory will be a commanding one," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, the head of the Panorama think tank. "The Kremlin will use its administrative resources for the party to get some percentage points more than Putin got in the presidential elections."

Putin garnered 71.3 percent of the vote in the 2004 presidential elections.

Putin's announcement Monday signals the Kremlin's effective marginalization of A Just Russia -- widely seen as a Kremlin-backed project to take votes away from the Communists -- said Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst with the Indem think tank.

"A Just Russia is a tool that is not needed anymore," Korgunyuk said.

But billionaire Duma Deputy Alexander Lebedev, a former United Russia member who defected to A Just Russia earlier this year, said he was pleased that "Putin has found his place in the system."

"Is that bad?" Lebedev said. "Maybe United Russia will be in the driver's seat, and so what? It will only motivate us."

Sergei Shargunov, head of A Just Russia's youth wing and No. 3 on the party's federal ticket, said Putin's top spot on the list of its main rival would not cut into A Just Russia's popularity.

Polling data released last month from the independent Levada Center showed that United Russia had the support of 55 percent of decided voters. The Communists had 18 percent support; the Liberal Democratic Party -- 11 percent; A Just Russia -- 7 percent; and Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces each had 2 percent.

A Duma deputy from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party said he was unconcerned that Putin's candidacy would affect the nationalist party's base.

"Putin's electorate is not our electorate," LDPR Deputy Alexander Kurdyumov said. "We are an opposition party, and we are not afraid of losing votes. A Just Russia should be afraid, not us."

Zhirinovsky's party, widely seen as loyal to the Kremlin despite its opposition pretenses, has been represented in every Duma since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Even if Putin's popularity brings home an enormous victory for United Russia, it is against the law for only one party to occupy the Duma.

Should no other party make the 7 percent barrier, the party with the next highest percentage would be allocated Duma seats.

Governors are now likely to step up their efforts to bring in the vote for United Russia, said Dmitry Oreshkin, head of the Mercator think tank. Governors understand that their political futures depend on the percent the party gets in their respective regions.

"Most governors are used to working in the Soviet Union, under a one-party system," Oreshkin said. "It will be easier for them to focus exclusively on United Russia."

Staff Writers Natalya Krainova and Alexander Osipovich contributed to this report.