Thousands of people gathered in Moscow Sunday evening calling for greater political freedoms and a change to the country’s ruling powers after opposition parties failed to win representation in regional elections this month. Between 8,000 and 10,000 gathered at the rally just outside of the center of the Russian capital, said Leonid Volkov, one of the organizers, by telephone on Sunday. Prior to the rally as many as 8,400 people had registered their interest on Facebook while Moscow authorities gave permission for up to 40,000 demonstrators to congregate. Moscow police press-service said that about 4,000 people turned up. Opposition leader Alexey Navalny called the rally after his party failed to win parliamentary seats in the one region where it was allowed to stand in elections on Sept. 13.
Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, announced Tuesday he is stepping down two years early to stand for a new term in office. Sobyanin suggested that the new mayoral election – Moscow’s first in 10 years – would take place on Sept. 8, the same day as the election for governor is scheduled to take place in the surrounding Moscow Region. The maneuver is largely being viewed as an effort to secure a five-year mayoral term at a time when his strongest potential opponents, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and opposition activist Alexei Navalny, are likely to be deterred from running. Sobyanin announced his decision on June 4 at a meeting of Moscow’s Public Chamber, where its members urged Sobyanin, appointed mayor by then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, to call early elections to boost his legitimacy among Muscovites. He is thought likely to continue as acting mayor after formally submitting his resignation to President Vladimir Putin, in the period leading up to the new mayoral election.
The Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, has approved the bill on gubernatorial elections. According to the draft law, any Russian citizen over 30 can run for governor of a region either as an independent candidate or a party nominee. Independent candidates would need to collect voter signatures in the support, from 0.5 to 2 per cent of the local population. The exact amount is to be determined by local authorities. In addition, candidates should obtain the support of 5 to 10 per cent of local deputies from at least three quarters of the region’s municipalities. This is what is dubbed as the “municipal filter” in the law.
Russia: Kremlin bill restoring gubernatorial elections passes in parliament, but barely | The Associated Press
The Russian parliament on Wednesday passed a Kremlin bill restoring gubernatorial elections, with opponents saying the new law will still allow the president to screen out undesirable candidates. The 450-seat State Duma, the elected lower house, approved the bill with 237 votes, just above the simple majority required. President Dmitry Medvedev submitted the bill in response to massive protests against his mentor Vladimir Putin in the run-up to the March election that gave Putin a third presidential term. Putin had scrapped direct elections of provincial governors during his presidency as part of a systematic rollback of democratic freedoms.
Can voters be trusted with democracy? Not in Russia: Vladimir Putin barred plausible alternative candidates from standing and rigged votes to ensure his victory in the recent presidential election. If Mr Putin thought more highly of voters in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia, he miscalculated. In November they voted for Alla Dzhioyeva over Anatoly Bibilov, the Russia-backed candidate. But the Supreme Court in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, annulled Ms Dzhioyeva’s victory, citing unconvincing allegations of fraud. The electorate has been given a second chance to get it right this Sunday, and the authorities have ensured Ms Dzhioyeva is no longer on the ballot. Voters in Georgia’s other breakaway region, Abkhazia, were given more leeway in last summer’s presidential vote when they chose Alexander Ankvab over Sergei Shamba, Russia’s preferred candidate. Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, even congratulated Mr Ankvab by telephone. Parliamentary elections in the region, on March 10th, were similar.
Leaders of three opposition factions in the lower house have prepared a bill demanding that Russia’s new Central Election Commission is elected before the March presidential poll. Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party and Sergey Mironov of the Fair Russia party submitted the suggestion to dissolve the Central Election Commission headed by its current chairman Vladimir Churov, and form new commissions starting from district level.
Tens of thousands of Russians are expected to take to the streets on Saturday despite Kremlin efforts to ease tensions over disputed elections and Vladimir Putin’s expected return to the presidency. More than 50,000 people have indicated their intention to attend a protest on Moscow’s Sakharov Prospect, named after the late leading Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Thousands more have signed up via social networking sites for protests in more than 80 Russian cities.
The protesters are hoping to capitalise on the momentum launched earlier this month, when up to 50,000 people turned out in Moscow alone demanding the Kremlin overturn parliamentary election results that saw Putin’s United Russia take a majority in the Duma despite widespread accusations of fraud.
The former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, the novelist Boris Akunin, the anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny and Ksenia Sobchak, the Russian “It Girl” and daughter of Putin’s mentor, are among those expected to address the crowd. Protesters will don white ribbons to symbolise their opposition to the election results, which they say are a sign of their country’s lack of democracy. The oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who is running against Putin, also said he would address the rally.
The European Union used a summit with Russia today to highlight concerns over claims of massive fraud during this month’s Russian parliamentary elections. Russia’s December 4 State Duma elections and their aftermath — including the detention of demonstrators — were not officially on the agenda of the summit, which otherwise focused on economic and visa liberalization issues.
But the EU made clear in the run-up that it would raise its worries with Dmitry Medvedev during his last summit with the bloc as Russia’s president. EU President Herman Van Rompuy told a news conference after the summit that the EU had been perturbed by election monitors’ reports of irregularities and lack of fairness in the December 4 vote, and about the detention of protesters.
Dmitry Peskov told the AFP news agency: “Even if you add up all this so-called evidence, it accounts for just over 0.5 percent of the total number of votes.
“So even if hypothetically you recognise that they are being contested in court, then in any case, this can in no way affect the question of the vote’s legitimacy or the overall results.”
His comments followed an order from President Dmitry Medvedev for election authorities to look into reports of vote-fixing after the ruling party’s narrow victory sparked the largest protest rallies since the 1990s. Mr Medvedev was roundly humiliated however after his Facebook page, in which he posted a message denouncing Saturday’s 50,000-strong rally in Moscow, was flooded by protesters criticising the Russian president.
The post, which came on the same day that the controversial head of the elections commission avoided an attempt to remove him, sparked disbelief and disgust and within two hours more than 3,500 people had posted comments, the vast majority overwhelmingly negative.
Russia: NJ Nets owner Prokhorov to put full-court press on Putin by running for president | The Washington Post
Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia’s richest tycoons and the owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, said Monday he will run against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the March presidential election.
Prokhorov, whose wealth Forbes magazine has estimated at $18 billion, has been cautious not to cross Putin’s path in the past. But the tycoon’s candidacy may now pose a serious challenge to Putin, whose authority has been dented by his party’s poor showing in Russia’s Dec. 4 parliamentary election and allegations of widespread fraud during the balloting.
Putin’s party only won about 50 percent of that vote, compared to 64 percent four years ago, and the fraud allegations have allowed opposition parties to successfully mount massive anti-Putin protests in Russia. “The society is waking up,” Prokhorov said at the news conference in Moscow to announce his candidacy. “Those authorities who will fail to establish a dialogue with the society will have to go.”
Dmitry Medvedev, in the wake of protests by thousands of Russians, announced over the weekend that the results of the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections would be recounted. But the election, which many western observers pronounced as fraudulent, also may be the reason that Vladimir Putin will face a new and stronger challenger in the upcoming presidential election. A week of protests in Russia have forced President Dmitry Medvedev to agree to a review of bitterly contested parliamentary elections.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Moscow over the weekend in protests and on Sunday, Medvedev agreed to investigate perceived improprieties in the elections. Monitors from the European Union and United States described irregularities including ballot box stuffing.
Medvedev made his announcement on Facebook, saying there would be investigations into allegations of voter fraud.
When Russian leader Vladimir Putin climbed into the martial arts ring in the Olimpiysky Palace in downtown Moscow recently to congratulate a Russian wrestler who had quite convincingly beaten his American opponent, he was greeted by an unfamiliar sound. The crowd, which, given the high ticket price, consisted mostly of wealthy and middle-class Russians, booed, with some shouting, “Go away!”
The prime minister’s press service later hurried to explain that it was a misunderstanding and that the audience last week was booing not Putin but American fighter Jeff Monson, who was being led away from the hall at the same time. “The booing was obviously aimed at Monson,” said Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman. “It is absurd to speak about some message sent to Putin!”
Russia’s upper house of parliament formally set March 4, 2012 as the date for the country’s presidential election. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to return to the job for a third term after President Dmitry Medvedev in September agreed to step aside, in a job swap with Mr. Putin.
The prospect of having the former president return to power apparently has some Russians upset. Mr. Putin was recently, and unprecedentedly, booed in public at a sporting event in Moscow and he has fallen in some public opinion polls. This rare show of animosity towards one of Russia’s most popular men has analysts weighing in.
In 1994, when the Russian budget was more or less equivalent to that of New York City, the state decided to begin development of the Automated State Election System (SAS). Prior to the development of SAS, Russian electoral rolls were printed on typewriters and ballot papers were hand-counted. In the 1993 elections, it took election officials 12 days to count the votes. SAS, which took about a year to develop and launch, was built on a foundation of Soviet technological innovations, but some of the world’s leading IT companies, including HP, Oracle, and Cisco Systems, also contributed.
“With the creation of the Elections SAS, we became pioneers. And to this day, not a single country in the world has a system like ours,” said Mikhail Popov, head of the Federal Center of Information Technologies under the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, in a 2009 interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. It’s possible that he is over-praising his creation. But the SAS has served more than 20,000 election campaigns at various levels without significant technological failures.
“We consider the December 4 parliamentary elections illegitimate and call for a boycott of these disgraceful ‘elections’ in every reasonable way,” said a declaration signed by Kasparov and other vocal but marginalised opponents of the Kremlin. “It’s an appeal to consciously ignore cooperation with the current authorities,” Kasparov, who leads the United Civil Front movement, said at a press conference.
Last month’s announcement that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will seek to swap seats with President Dmitry Medvedev in 2012 presidential elections essentially told people “that voters no longer exist in the country,” he said. “We need to put a lot of effort into pulling the country from the claws of Putin’s dictatorship,” he said, adding that boycotting both the parliamentary and the presidential elections would be the first step.
The German government on Monday called on Russia to see that next year’s presidential election observed “democratic principles,” and added that it would welcome a plan to send in independent election observers. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said, “From a German point of view, it would be very helpful if a sufficient number of election observers were allowed into the country.”
But he also made it clear that the “strategic partnership” between Russia and Germany was of primary importance, and would be used as the basis for a continued close cooperation with any successor to President Dmitry Medvedev.
Vladimir Churov, the head of the Central Electoral Commission, has told the press that the question of Vladimir Putin’s presidency will be finally decided only after the 2012 elections.
Churov was holding a press conference dedicated to future parliamentary and presidential elections in Moscow on Monday. When a reporter asked him if Dmitry Medvedev’s suggestion to the United Russia party to support Vladimir Putin as a candidate at the presidential elections meant the outcome of the elections was already pre-determined, Churov said that it was not so.
“This was not a question, rather a statement and it was a categorical one. I must say at once that I don’t agree with it,” Churov said. The Russian elections chief said that for him the election result will be known only by 9am on the next day after Election Day, when the Electoral Commission receives preliminary reports from over 99 per cent of ballot stations.
The St. Petersburg governor is one step closer to becoming the upper house speaker as she received over 95 per cent of the vote in municipal elections. The opposition claims the unusually high level of support could only be caused by a rigged poll.
Russian news agencies reported that Governor Valentina Matviyenko received 93.7 per cent of the vote in a municipal by-election in the Petrovsky district on Sunday.Voter turnout was at 36.54 per cent. The turnout at the Krasnenkaya Rechka district where Matviyenko was running was slightly lower – 28 per cent – where over 94.5 per cent voted in favor of the incumbent governor.
Elections monitors say that the poll was conducted without any major violations, but noted several incidents.At one polling station, the head of the elections commission tried to bar a journalist from Novaya Gazeta newspaper from observing the course of the voting, but failed.
Russia denied registration of a key opposition political party Wednesday, effectively barring it from upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections that the Kremlin had hinted might be open to some competition.
The refusal signals the government plans to tightly manage the elections, critics said, despite avowals from President Dmitry Medvedev that he would like to see some opening up of Russia’s political life.
“This is an announcement that there will be no elections, because there will be no opposition parties,” said Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of the People’s Freedom Party, which was cobbled together by four prominent Kremlin critics in December. “The decision comes from the very top.”