By Emre Gürkan Abay
Russia Letter – Week beginning Sept. 19

- Russian parliamentary elections

Polls in Russia’s parliamentary elections closed Sunday with an expected win for President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

With an economic crisis still lingering, Russian citizens across the country voted to elect 450 members to represent them for the next five years in the Duma, the country’s lower house of parliament.

Nearly 4,500 candidates from 14 parties ran. The average turnout for the election was as low as 39.37 percent; the highest turnout was 78 percent in the Kemerovo region in Russia's Western Siberia.

Voters in the country’s two biggest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, mostly stayed at home; and turnout was as low as one-fifth -- the lowest seen over the past 10 years.

Numerous polls before the elections showed nearly 31 percent of Russians said they would back United Russia, which is currently lead by current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The pro-Kremlin Communist Party came in second place after United Russia in the polls and another pro-Kremlin group, the Liberal Democratic Party, was in third place.

The People’s Freedom Party, led by former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and the Yabloko Party were also seen as potential competitors.

A party needs to win 266 seats to command a majority in the Duma.

However, results for Duma elections in Crimea -- the first since Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory nearly two years ago -- are not expected to be globally recognized.

- Russian Central Bank cuts interest rate

Russia's Central Bank cut interest rates on Friday by 50 basis points to 10 percent, further easing its monetary policy.

The statement from the bank said that the decision came after the inflation slowdown continued in line with the forecast.

Analysts believe that the Central Bank will continue its rate cut strategy in order to stabilize the rate of inflation to 4 percent by 2017, which currently stands at 6.6 percent as of September.

The bank also noted that it was highly unlikely to cut rates once more before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, S&P Global Ratings upgraded its outlook on Russia's credit rating to "stable" from "negative” in a report released on Friday.

"External risks to Russia have abated to a significant extent, while the country's economy continues to adjust to the dual shocks of a lower oil price environment and sanctions imposed by the EU and the U.S.," S&P said in the report.

The Russian economic crisis still continues as economic sanctions imposed for Russia's annexation of Crimea and the effects of the drop in the oil prices still remain.

19 Sep,2016