Russia: Medvedev orders probe into `vote rigging`

Medvedev`s decision to launch a probe into alleged vote fraud came amid fresh protest demonstrations in Urals city of Perm.

Moscow: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
on Sunday ordered a probe into allegations of vote rigging that
sparked the biggest anti-government agitation in post-Soviet
Russia by tens of thousands of protestors who called for an
end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin`s rule.

"I don`t agree either with slogans nor statements made at
the rallies. All the same I have issued orders to probe all
the information concerning the observance of electoral law at
the polling stations," Medvedev wrote on his Facebook status.

Calling for fair elections in the wake of last weekend`s
parliamentary polls, allegedly rigged in favour of the ruling
Russia United party of Putin, some 50,000 Russians yesterday
took to the streets demanding an end to Putin`s `managed
democracy`.

Commenting on yesterday`s protest rallies, largest of
which was held at Bolotnya Square near the Kremlin, Medvedev
noted that under the Russian constitution the people have
freedom of speech and gathering in public.

"People have right to express their views, which they did
yesterday. It’s good that everything proceeded within the
framework of law," Medvedev wrote in his Facebook blog.
The protests come three months before the Russian
strongman, who was president in 2000-2008 and effectively
remained incharge of the country`s while prime minister, will
seek a third presidential term.

Last Sunday`s Parliamentary election for lower house Duma
signalled the end of Putin`s honeymoon with Russia. Putin`s
`United Russia` lost its overwhelming majority of 315 seats in
the 450-strong lower house, but retained 238 seats allegedly
due to mass-scale ballot-rigging.

Facing rare street demonstrations against his rule, Putin
on Tueseday accused the US of instigating post-election
protests in Russia that are posing a challenge to his
authority.

Medvedev`s decision to launch a probe into alleged vote
fraud came amid fresh protest demonstrations in Urals city of
Perm, Siberian cities of Novosibirsk and Omsk today.
Russia`s Public Chamber - a buffer between the regime and
the civil society - in a statement appealed to the country`s
leaders to heed the voice of protestors, who represent the
cross section of the Russian society.

"Opposition rallies against recent elections that
culminated in a massive demonstration in Moscow this weekend
are a major "watershed" in Russia`s post-Soviet social and
political development that the country`s leadership must
reckon with," state-run RIA Novosti quoted analysts as saying.

"The rally in Moscow on Saturday, attended by tens of
thousands of relatively young, well-dressed, educated
"mainstream" people rather than a few hundred marginal
politicians and their followers, demonstrated that average
Russian people in large numbers have real questions for the
country` s leadership," it said.

"They (protesters) are not interested in burning down the
state but rather in making their voices heard. And this,
political experts say, is a force that Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev and other top Russian leaders
cannot afford to ignore," the agency, considered as the voice
of the Russian government, underscored in its comments.
The protesters` main demand, which united representatives
of the entire political spectrum, was a review of the results
of the elections.

In the controversial December 4 Duma election, the ruling
United Russia party got 49.32 per cent of the votes, the
Communist Party 19.19 per cent, A Just Russia party 13.24 per
cent, the LDPR 11.67 per cent, Yabloko 3.43 per cent, Patriots
of Russia 0.97 per cent and the Right Cause party 0. 6 per
cent.

The opposition, including opposition factions in
parliament, believes that the official electoral data were
falsified and that the day of voting itself was marked by
alleged massive breaches of electoral legislation, including
ballot stuffing and the removal of observers from polling
stations.

The report said that for the first time in Russia`s
political history, massive protests were coordinated outside
traditional political structures, using social networks where
people independently organised groups.

RIA Novosti said a mere look at the participants of the
rally in Moscow showed that the protests was staged not by
social groups who are regularly angry at the government -
pensioners and low-paid workers.

The protesters were "educated and relatively `well-to-do`
young professionals who have as much interest as the country`s
leaders in seeing stable social, economic and political
development but who have, until now, lacked any organised
political force".

PTI