Putin ally heads Russia Parliament despite rallies

Russia`s lower house of parliament on Wednesday elected a close ally of Vladimir Putin as its new speaker.

Last Updated: Dec 21, 2011, 22:20 PM IST

Moscow: Russia`s lower house of parliament
on Wednesday elected a close ally of Vladimir Putin as its new
speaker, in defiance of mass protests sparked by opposition
claims it was elected in rigged polls.

The State Duma voted the candidate of Putin`s ruling
party, the former Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, as
its president in its first session of the new parliament.

However after United Russia won less than half the vote
in December 4 parliamentary elections and lost 77 seats, while
still retaining its majority, the Duma is expected to be
somewhat less pliant than in previous years, when it served as
a mere rubber stamp for the Kremlin.

The mild-mannered Naryshkin, who like Putin hails from
Saint Petersburg, pledged the Duma would operate through
consensus as he faced a barrage of questions from an
opposition emboldened by its electoral success.

"I would like to stress: a parliamentary majority is by
no means a monopoly," Naryshkin said. "I am in favour of
parliamentary debate."

His predecessor, the dour-faced United Russia chairman
Boris Gryzlov, who quit the post earlier this month following
the mass rallies, was once notoriously quoted as saying that
"the Duma is not a place for discussion."

A total of 238 parliament members supported Naryshkin`s
candidacy in the Duma, where United Russia has 238 out of 450
seats. Eighty-eight voted against him.

Claims of vote fraud in the polls brought tens of
thousands out into the streets across Russia earlier this
month in the largest show of public anger since the turbulent
1990s.

PTI