Russian prime minister discounts calls for election review
Vladimir Putin says he won't need vote fraud to win the presidency back
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday discounted calls for a review of the disputed December 4 parliamentary elections that have sparked widespread protests and calls for reform.
“The elections to the State Duma are over,” Putin said. “All parliamentary factions have started to work. The speaker has been elected. The Duma is functioning. Any kind of revision is out of the question,” Putin said.
The only exception, he said, would be if any irregularities were found, “the court will have to look into them and adopt an objective ruling.”
Putin’s ruling United Russia Party received 49.5 percent of the vote, down from 64 percent four years ago, in an election widely viewed as marred by vote rigging and ballot-box stuffing. It kept Putin’s party in power, although in diminished form.
Putin’s party will retain the largest number of seats – 238 – in the country’s 450-member parliament, called the Duma. That’s down from more than 300 the party currently holds.
President Dimitry Medvedev announced political reforms in the wake of the results, but tens of thousands of people still protested in bitter cold in Moscow on Saturday to demand fair elections and other changes.
They also chanted against the planned March presidential bid by Putin.
Putin said Tuesday that he would not need to resort to fraudulent tactics to win back the presidency he held from 1999 to 2008, when Russian law limiting presidents to two consecutive terms forced him to leave office.
“As one of the candidates, I do not need fraud,” Ria Novosti quoted Putin as saying. “I want to rely on the people’s will, trust.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for a full investigation of the parliamentary elections, citing “serious concern” about the vote.