Putin dismisses calls to rerun recent general election


RUSSIAN PRIME minister Vladimir Putin has rejected calls to rerun this month’s fraud-tainted general election and dismissed his opponents as devoid of strong leaders and a clear vision for the nation’s future.

Mr Putin also insisted that next March’s presidential election – when he hopes to return to the Kremlin for a possible further 12 years – should be as clean and transparent as possible, following rallies that represent the biggest public challenge to his 11 years in power.

“The elections are over. The parliament has started its work and a speaker elected . . .

“There can be no talk of any review,” Mr Putin told a gathering of supporters.

He added that anyone who had evidence of vote-rigging should appeal to the law courts.

Mr Putin’s United Russia party easily won the December 4th election, but failed to take 50 per cent of votes and saw its share of ballots shrink by 15 per cent from the last election in 2007.

Reports of ballot-stuffing and other fraud from across Russia prompted tens of thousands of people to protest in Moscow and other towns and cities after the election, and as many 120,000 people rallied against the vote and Mr Putin’s ruling clique in the capital on Saturday.

Mr Putin mocked protesters earlier this month and suggested they were controlled by the United States, which he blamed for triggering the demonstrations with strong criticism of the election.

He and his allies have also accused foreign capitals of trying to foment the kind of massive street protests that brought pro-western governments to power in Ukraine and Georgia.

“When this kind of situation emerges, there is always an attempt to devalue and undermine the legitimacy of everything that happened in the public sphere, including and, most of all, the electoral process,” Mr Putin said.

Turning to the presidential vote in March, Mr Putin said “everything must be done in order to ensure that elections are understandable, transparent and objective . . . As a candidate, I don’t need any vote-rigging . . . I want to rely on people’s will, on people’s trust.”

The Moscow protests have brought together groups from across the full range of the political spectrum, a factor Mr Putin said showed the opposition movement’s lack of coherence.

“The problem is they lack a consolidated programme, as well as clear and comprehensible ways of achieving their goals – which aren’t clear either,” he said.

“I have difficulty imagining who from their ranks could do concrete work for the development of our state.”

Many of Mr Putin’s critics – which include former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who has urged him to resign – say he is to blame for the lack of a strong opposition party in Russia, given the way he has used state power to undermine opponents and starve them of media coverage.

President Dmitry Medvedev this month proposed measures to loosen the authorities’ stranglehold on politics and media. His intention to simply swap jobs with Mr Putin in March has also angered many Russians.