Senin, 12 Desember 2011

Russia to investigate electoral fraud in wake of protests

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has ordered an investigation into the allegations of fraud in the country's disputed elections earlier this month.

The move comes after the biggest protests in over a decade across Russia, which saw tens of thousands of people gather near the Kremlin and thousands more rally in 50 cities across the country.

The unrest was sparked over widespread allegations of ballot-box stuffing in parliamentary elections held on December 4.

Protesters have demanded the government set a new election date by December 24 and the opposition has called for the chairman of the country's electoral commission to be sacked.

Mr Medvedev is rejecting calls for a new election, keeping a low profile and avoiding appearances on camera since the ballot.

But in an apparent acknowledgement of the protesters' concerns, he announced via Facebook that he will order an investigation into the widespread allegations of vote rigging.

That is not enough for many protesters, who are worried the United Russia party stole the election.

"I think it is inadequate. We support the rally. I'm sure that we were all fooled yet another time with the election," one demonstrator said.

"I'm sure that all the percentages that United Russia received are overstated and the fact that our authorities are opting out of this, it's horrible. But what can we do about it?"

Some demonstrators say they saw vote rigging first hand in the parliamentary vote.

"Almost at once we could identify people who were heading towards polling booths with stacks of voting ballots to put into the ballot box. Naturally I knew these things happened but I didn't expect to see it at my polling station," one witness said.
Putin's power

The protesters are also concerned over prime minister Vladimir Putin's decision to run for the presidency next year.

Mr Putin served as president from 1999 until 2008, but handed over to then prime minister Dmitry Medvedev because the constitution barred him from a third term.

Russian opposition MP Ilya Ponamaryov says Mr Putin always loomed large in the background and the protesters are worried about his return.

"This whole thing started in September when Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev decided to trade places without asking the rest of the population," she said.

"It was that time when people decided that we will come to the polling station and by voting against United Russia, we would express our disapproval of their decision."

Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst, says the president's call for an investigation may not be enough to satisfy the protesters.

"The public opinion is that everyone understands that there was fraud or a majority understands it," he said.

"In such a situation what the president should have done instead of posting on Facebook is to create a commission to include officials from the polling stations, members of the party structures that were monitoring the election, members of the press and members of social organisations that have a right to monitor the elections and recount the votes. It is not that complicated."

Mr Oreshkin says the president needs to be much more specific about the investigation if he hopes to mollify the protesters.

"He didn't say to whom he gave the order. Did he give orders to a firefighting squad, to an ambulance or maybe to the emergencies ministry?" he said.

"After all, it should have been stated. It is either the prosecutors or it is the investigative committee or is it the Central Elections Commission?

"If it is the elections commission, this means it is investigating itself at a time when people are expressing their mistrust of it. So I think it is an ineffective move.

"I think that the president will receive more critical remarks from the internet community than voices of support."

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