Russia Other


Thousands protest against election fraud

The United Russia party "Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev's political movement" suffered a big blow at parliamentary elections held on 4 December. Despite maintaining the majority in the State Duma "the lower house of the Russian parliament" the ruling party won only 49.3% of the votes. It thereby gained 238 out of the 450 seats (53% of the total) and thus lost the more-than-two thirds constitutional majority it achieved in the 2007 elections" when it won 64% of the vote and obtained 315 seats (70% of the total). International and local observers questioned the validity of the vote in the immediate aftermath of the elections, quoting widespread reports of fraud intended to favour the ruling coalition. News of electoral rigging sparked protests in Moscow, which gained momentum during the following week. Eventually, on 10 December, thousands of protesters took to the street in various cities across the country, demanding new elections or a full recount of the parliamentary vote. The demonstration was the largest in more than a decade and drew comparison with the mass protests that followed the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991. While the government's reaction was at first heavy handed, it later softened its approach towards the protesters. President Medvedev even conceded that an investigation into reports of electoral fraud would be conducted, although he did not specify which institution would carry out the probe. In spite of the muted response from Russian authorities, however, many sources believe that most of the protesters' requests will remain unheeded. Against this backdrop, opposition groups vowed to continue their protests and have announced another massive demonstration for 24 December. The post-election protests represent a challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Putin " the key player on the Russian political scene for the last 15 years. Putin himself was the main target of the demonstrations, with many protesters calling for his resignation. However, the incumbent Prime Minister is still expected to have a successful run at the next presidential elections, scheduled on 4 March 2012. Putin remains the most popular politician in the country according to recent polls, and is facing a strongly divided opposition.

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