MOSCOW, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Candidates backed by Russia's ruling party won gubernatorial elections in five regions and most of the local elections, the country's Central Election Commission (CEC) said Monday.
With 100 percent of the ballots counted, the United Russia party won a "clear victory" in the direct governors elections, the CEC said in a live broadcast statement.
The party's incumbent governors in the Amur, Belgorod, Bryansk, Novgorod and Ryazan regions won with large margins, it said.
It was the first time in eight years voters could directly elect governors in the five regions.
Direct gubernatorial elections were canceled in 2004 by then President Vladimir Putin, who saw it as encouraging local separatism sentiments.
After last December's parliamentary elections, mass rallies were held in Russian cities protesting alleged vote fraud. A return to the direct election of governors was one of the protesters' demands.
Meanwhile, elections at various levels, which were held in 77 of the 83 regions across the country on the "single voting day" on Sunday, involved more than 22 million people or one fifth of the registered voters in the country, according to the CEC.
United Russia candidates also won most of the 4800 elections for mayors and local legislative bodies, the CEC said.
President Vladimir Putin welcomed the results Monday and said he believed the local elections would be a "serious step", following the presidential election, in strengthening Russian statehood and creating favorable conditions for the country's future growth.
Putin said he intended to meet with newly elected leaders and to urge them to take "effective, energetic steps" to tackle challenges facing them.
A number of new political parties were formed during the election campaigns after legislative changes, CEC Deputy Head Leonid Ivlev told local media.
Candidates from 26 political parties took part in the elections, Ivlev said, adding the figure was much more than the seven parties "in the country's political arena over past years."
The single voting day also featured more vivid regional campaigns, as more than 3,000 candidates from over 20 political parties vied for seats in local parliaments, according to the CEC.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday those who expected a failure of the United Russia in regional elections would be disappointed.
"Everyone expected a fiasco for the party after the December elections, not because the party did poorly but everyone said it is a declining trend. (These people said) 'everything is getting out of hand and losing ground.' Nothing of the kind happened," he said during a video conference at United Russia headquarters.
As the party chief, Medvedev urged candidates to fulfill their campaign promises.
"We should remember the party's promises and the voters' mandates. We must remember what regional and municipal authorities must do," he said.
Under an order issued by Medvedev earlier this month, regional elections and ballot counting were broadcast live on the Internet.
On Sunday, CEC Chairman Vladimir Churov ordered a probe into alleged violations in the Barnaul legislative elections.
Opposition party leader Yabloko Sergei Mitrokhin also filed a complaint to Churov and Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika over reported election violations in a number of regions.
Commenting on the alleged vote fraud and violations, Medvedev said the voting was civilized. "As far as I understand, no major violations were reported," he said, adding they set an example for future elections.
According to Churov, turnout rates for the elections were relatively high, up to 50 percent for gubernatorial elections and similar to previous elections for local legislative bodies.