Russia: Who is Calling the Shots at the Duma? |

The Russian elections this month held some unwelcome surprises for the nation’s ruling party, “United Russia”. Administered in tandem by current president Dmitri Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin (soon to be president once again), United Russia found itself receiving significantly lower-than-normal parliamentary results. This, combined with the protests that ensued quickly thereafter, seems to have sparked the corporate media’s hopes for a “colour revolution”.

The situation echoes the Serbian, Georgian and Ukrainian models; in these and several other countries, the governments had to step down after mass protests were organised with the support of US think tanks including the National Endowment for Democracy. These actions, led by the US and several EU countries, were geared toward the installation of leaderships that were more in line with Western agendas than their predecessors, and not necessarily in the interest of the Russian population. Certainly no effort is being spared to work towards a change of government in Russia.

However, these suggestions of a “colour revolution” do not correspond to Russian realities at all. American and West European media love to project their perceptions of a pro-Western civil society onto the protesters in Russia. Without a doubt, the archetype of the young academic activist who blames the government for being “undemocratic” and who advertises his West-friendly ideas on his internet blog certainly does exist in Russia. And the way the various neoliberal-oriented groups are being financed by the usual suspects is well documented[1]. But even in Western media one can read between the lines and notice that the majority of those expressing their dissatisfaction do not fit this scheme.

First of all it should be mentioned that the composition of the Russian Duma following the election results does in fact represent the will of Russia’s majority as much as it is possible in a system of representative democracy, which mirrors the framework of most Eastern and Western European countries. In the end, the ruling party received 238 of altogether 450 seats, which means a loss of 77 seats and its (up to now) two-thirds majority rule. The strongest opposition party, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), gained 35 seats and raised its total number to 92.[2] Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats, led by the nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and a party called “A Just Russia”, which is supposed to be government-friendly and focuses on social issues, are also represented in the new parliament. [3]

Russia: Ballot stuffing suspected in Russian election |

Dagmein Khaseinova beams with pride recalling the day her Chechen village, devastated a decade ago in a war launched by Vladimir Putin, gave the Russian ruler’s party nearly 100 percent support in a parliamentary vote this month. Her little village of Mekhketi, she said, is even on the way to winning the cash prize she says authorities have promised for the polling station registering the biggest turnout.

“We’ve already won the regional competition. In a few days we’ll hear whether we won throughout all of Chechnya,” Khaseinova, 53, said, wearing a traditional Chechen scarf over her head and squinting in the cold mountain air. “The organizers of the polling station have been promised some kind of prize money if they win,” she adds, hiding a smile. Putin’s United Russia recorded a higher percentage of votes in predominantly Muslim Chechnya, where federal troops fought two wars since the fall of the Soviet Union, than anywhere else in the country. Official results show support at 99.5% and voter turnout of 99.4%.

Nationwide, the party won just under half the votes, securing a slim majority in the State Duma. Even that outcome, critics said, was the result of ballot stuffing and fraud. Countless complaints have been filed; but not in Chechnya. Official monitors here have not lodged a single complaint of voting violations, but among many local residents, the outcome has stirred some incredulity, albeit cautiously expressed.

“United Russia is the party of Putin, and Chechnya would never vote for Putin,” said one middle-aged resident of the regional capital of Grozny, who declined to give his name for fear of retribution. “In the mind of every Chechen he is associated with the bombing that destroyed Grozny and other cities all over the region. Voting for Putin is about as absurd as any vote with a 99% outcome,” he said.

Russia: Putin registered as candidate for Russian president |

Russian election authorities officially registered Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Monday as a candidate for president in next year’s election, they announced on their website. Putin will represent his United Russia party, the Central Election Commission said.

The move is the latest step toward Putin’s reclaiming the presidency after switching to the prime minister’s office because of a law barring him from serving more than two consecutive terms as president.

Russia’s third-richest man, the billionaire New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, announced this month that he will run against Putin for president. Many ordinary Russians suspect the Kremlin put Prokhorov up to it to give the impression the contest is fair.

Voting Blogs: Thousands protest over alleged Russian election fraud |

The exact number of protesters present is unknown; estimates for the Moscow protest vary from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand, and rallies on a more minor scale also took place in other Russian cities—including Saint Petersburg. Voice of America (VoA) reported the demonstrations as the largest pro-democracy protests since Vladimir Putin came to power eleven years ago. Other reports describe the demonstrations as the greatest since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Police estimated that ten thousand people were present at demonstrations in St. Petersburg. Corruption and a rejection of Putin were the most commonly-cited grievances from questioned protesters.

Opposition leader Evgenia Chirikova told VoA the protests were in favour of fresh elections, and the release of political prisoners. During the demonstrations, protesters chanted “[p]olice, part of the people” at the riot police. Echo of Moscow host Alexei Venediktov described the protesters as “the new generation, the Putin generation”. These people “voted, had their votes stolen, and now they want a fair system”, said Venediktov.

Konstantin Kosachyov, a United Russia parliamentarian, dismissed the concept of discussions with the protest organisers. “With all respect for the people who came out to protest, they are not a political party,” he stated. Student Daniil Klubov, a leader of the St. Petersburg rally, told the BBC that he does not “belong to any political movement” and is “just a student who is tired of all these lies”.

Russia: Russia after Duma election |

On December 4, 2001 the Russians voted in the State Duma election.
The outcome of the election and the subsequent protests in several Russian cities have inflamed the media on many meridians. Almost all comments on the Russian legislative election have featured quite incendiary headlines in the international media. The demonstrations in Russia were put in parallel with the developments in the ‘Arab spring’ or the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in the US.

It has been alleged that the election of the State Duma had been evidently fixed, had not taken place in a free context and according to democratic norms and, more than that, in the initial phase (about 1,000 arrests have been mentioned), the authorities had taken reprisals against the protestors taking to the streets in major cities and particularly in Moscow.

United Russia, the party that supports the sitting premier and the candidate for a new presidential term (the third) in March next year, Vladimir Putin, obtained between 49 and 50 per cent of the votes cast (apart from the 19 percent gathered by the Communists and 12 per cent going to other parties close to the power), losing therefore roughly 15 per cent of the votes it had presumed to get. Analyses have shown that, should results have not been defrauded, the ruling party in Russia would have actually lost one third of the total number of cast votes (just over 30-35 per cent instead of 49-50 per cent).

Russia: Thousands rally over fraud-tainted vote |

Thousands took to the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg on Sunday, braving strong winds and torrential rains for a second week of protests over Russia’s fraud-tainted parliamentary vote. About 4,000 supporters of the Communist Party rallied just outside the walls of the Kremlin on a snowy afternoon, demanding a re-count and the government’s resignation. Wind and rain later turned into a blizzard.

Frustration has grown with the ruling United Russia party and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for over a decade. “I think it’s a crime to keep silent,” said Vyacheslav Frolov, who was at the Moscow protest. In St. Petersburg, a rally in a central square drew about 4,000 people from various political parties. Protesters chanted: “Russia without Putin!” and held posters saying “We want to live in an honest country!”

Belgium: Brussels Raises Election Concerns At Russia Summit |

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.

Russia: Journalists Fired After Tough Election Coverage | Post Gazette

A high-ranking editor and a top executive from one of Russia’s most respected news publications were dismissed on Tuesday after an apparent conflict over coverage that appeared to highlight widespread anger with the results of parliamentary elections this month. The dismissals followed the publication this week of an election issue of the newsmagazine Kommersant Vlast, which detailed accusations of large-scale electoral fraud by the ruling party, United Russia, and included a photograph of a ballot scrawled with profanity directed against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

The firings came as tensions built between the Kremlin and a new constituency of reform-minded activists who held a protest against the election results here last weekend that drew tens of thousands of people. President Dmitri A. Medvedev announced on Tuesday that the first session of the new parliament would be held on Dec. 21, an indication that the Kremlin would not concede to increasingly vocal calls for new elections.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the protest movement met to plan what they said would be an even bigger demonstration on Dec. 24, and vowed not to relent in their demands. The tremors from this standoff have been particularly acute in the city’s print and online newsrooms. Under Mr. Putin, the authorities have generally tolerated a community of liberal-minded journalists whose criticism of the Kremlin has often been withering, but not widely broadcast.

Russia: Russian election: Biggest protests since fall of USSR | BBC News

Thousands of people have attended the biggest anti-government rally in the Russian capital Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union. As many as 50,000 people gathered on an island near the Kremlin to condemn alleged ballot-rigging in parliamentary elections and demand a re-run. Other, smaller rallies took place in St Petersburg and other cities.Communists, nationalists and Western-leaning liberals turned out together despite divisions between them.

The protesters allege there was widespread fraud in Sundays polls though the ruling United Russia party did see its share of the vote fall sharply. Demonstrations in the immediate aftermath of the election saw more than 1,000 arrests, mostly in Moscow, and several key protest leaders such as the anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny were jailed.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has never experienced popular protests like these before, the BBCs Steve Rosenberg reports from Moscow. During his decade in power, first as president then prime minister, he has grown used to being seen as Russias most popular and powerful politician.But as one of the protesters put it to our correspondent, Russia is changing.

Russia: Crowds gather for Moscow protests | BBC News

Thousands of protesters have gathered in Moscow in a show of anger over disputed parliamentary polls. The opposition says the protest – on an island just south of the Kremlin – could become the largest the country has seen in two decades. Smaller rallies have taken place in cities across the country.

Protesters allege there was widespread fraud in Sunday’s polls – though the ruling United Russia party saw its share of the vote fall sharply. Hundreds of people have been arrested during anti-Putin protests over the past week, mainly in Moscow and St Petersburg. At least 50,000 police and riot troops were deployed in Moscow ahead of Saturday’s protests.

Authorities have permitted up to 30,000 to attend the demonstration dubbed “For Fair Elections”. Thousands have turned out for rallies in cities across the Urals and Siberia and as far east as Vladivostok. The protesters have got one demand – for the elections to be held again. Nobody believes they were free and fair. Many are also asking that the head of the election commission stands down, and some are going even further and demanding that Vladimir Putin himself resigns.

There’s a real sense of anger – and although the numbers are not that big in global terms, in Moscow terms this is a very, very significant demonstration. This number simply haven’t come out onto the streets of Moscow since 1990s. It should not be underestimated what a significant moment this is. It may not deal a fatal blow to Mr Putin’s government, but it is certainly the most severe wake-up call he has received during 12 years in power.

Russia: ‘Hacking attacks’ hit Russian political sites | BBC News

A series of alleged hack attacks have struck political sites in Russia during the country’s parliamentary elections. Radio stations, election monitors and newspapers said they came under sustained attack.

The sites’ owners said they were bombarded with data in an attempt to overwhelm their computers and knock them offline. Some of the organisations involved have blamed the assault on state-sponsored “criminals”.

Over the weekend Russians voted in elections that determined the make-up of its lower house, or Duma, for the next five years. In the run-up to voting and on the day itself, many organisations critical of the policies of the ruling party said they had suffered attack by hackers.

Russia: Russian election commission to probe absentee ballot mess | RIA Novosti

Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) will carry out a probe into why over 500,000 people who had received absentee ballots never took part in the December 4 parliamentary elections, the Izvestiya daily reported on Friday citing CEC member Sergei Danilenko.

Earlier, Danilenko told RIA Novosti that over 1,700,000 absentee ballots had been handed to voters, but only 1,260,000 people used them. “We are now analyzing the situation in each constituent member [of the Russian Federation],” Danilenko said.

“We will look into the reasons why people who probably wanted to vote did not do so,” he said. The official did not rule out that some CEC members will go to Russian regions to investigate the matter on the site.

Russia: As Relations With U.S. Worsen, Putin Accuses Clinton of Instigating Protests |

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin accused Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday of inciting unrest in Russia, as he grappled with the prospect of large-scale political protest for the first time in his more than decade-long rule. In a rare personal accusation, Mr. Putin said Ms. Clinton had sent “a signal” to “some actors in our country” after Sunday’s parliamentary elections, which have been condemned as fraudulent by both international and Russian observers. Anger over the elections prompted a demonstration in which thousands chanted “Putin is a thief” and “Russia without Putin,” a development which has deeply unnerved the Kremlin.

Speaking to political allies as he announced the formation of his presidential campaign, Mr. Putin said hundreds of millions in “foreign money” was being used to influence Russian politics, and that Ms. Clinton herself had spurred protesters to action. The comments seemed to mark an end to the Obama administration’s sputtering effort to “reset” the relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

“I looked at the first reaction of our U.S. partners,” Mr. Putin said. “The first thing that the secretary of state did was say that they were not honest and not fair, but she had not even yet received the material from the observers.She set the tone for some actors in our country and gave them a signal,” Mr. Putin continued. “They heard the signal, and with the support of the U.S. State Department, began active work.”

Russia: Protests continue in Moscow, as Gorbachev calls for nullifying elections | The Washington Post

An anti-government demonstration planned for Saturday was drawing strong support in Russia, as supporters of Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin staged their own rally in the capital and police announced hundreds more arrests in Tuesday night’s protest against corruption. More than 14,000 people have signed up for Saturday’s demonstration in Revolution Square to protest the recent legislative elections, according to a Facebook page announcing the event. Western monitors say the voting was flawed by ballot-stuffing and other irregularities.

As the number of people pledging to attend the demonstration grew, Moscow officials shut down Revolution Square for construction, the New Times Web site reported. The Web site published a photograph of barriers erected to close off the square, near a statue of Karl Marx, and quoted a city hall representative as saying the decision to work on the square was made Wednesday. The city has employed construction before to limit or prevent protests.

Also Wednesday, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Russian authorities should nullify the election results because of fraud concerns. Prime Minister Vladi­mir Putin’s ruling United Russia party won with less than 50 percent of the vote, a far weaker showing than in past years.

Russia: Western Monitors Criticize Russian Vote That Cost Putin’s Party Seats |

The shot opens at the top of a flight of stairs and zooms in shakily on a gray-haired man, who sits at a desk furtively checking off what appear to be ballots — a stack of them. The video is shot with the grain and chop of an amateur. But it is apparently sharp enough. “A big hello to you,” says the cameraman, Yegor Duda, a 33-year-old volunteer election observer. “This is a violation of the criminal code. The chairman of the electoral commission is filling out ballots. Everything has been captured on the video camera,” he said.

Mr. Duda raced home and uploaded the clip to YouTube. Though just three minutes long, it quickly became an election-day sensation, helping fuel a major demonstration of as many as 5,000 people on Monday evening in central Moscow. They chanted “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief.”  Several hundred were arrested, including two major opposition leaders.

Valentin Gorbunov, the head of the Moscow City Elections Commission, confirmed the substance of the video and announced that Russian investigators had opened a case into ballot tampering by the head at Polling Place No. 2501, where the episode occurred, Russian news agencies reported Monday.