Kremlin panel urges new polls, firing of election chief

The Kremlin’s rights panel on Saturday called for the resignation of Russia’s election chief and snap parliamentary elections in a damning statement on “discredited” polls that sparked mass demonstrations.

The recommendations by the panel — which advises President Dmitry Medvedev on rights and social issues — are not binding but will add to pressure on the authorities for radical changes after the December 4 polls.

It said that there was “mass distrust of the poll results” which showed fallen support for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party but still gave it a majority in Parliament.

The Kremlin panel added that new election laws should be put in place “with the aim of then calling snap elections” to replace the current Parliament that met for its first session on Wednesday.

It also called for the resignation of the head of the Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov who once proudly said he was operating under a law called “Putin is always right”.

“This post should immediately be taken up by a person with an impeccable reputation who commands respect in civil society,” the Kremlin panel said, urging a probe into reports of violations.

Electoral rights violations
The statement cited “numerous reports of ballot stuffing, re-writing of protocols of ballot results, an unjustified removal of observers and journalists [from polling stations], a ban on photography and video recording and other violations of electoral rights”

It also pointed to “inexplicable paradoxes of electoral statistics”.

“This discredits the electoral system and the lower house of Parliament … morally and politically and creates a real threat to the Russian state,” the panel said.

A state-controlled TV channel led its morning news bulletin broadcast with the report of the Kremlin panel, in a move indicating that Churov’s job could be at risk.

But the commission dismissed the call, with its member Yelena Dubrovina telling the Interfax news agency that “this decision does not have any legal, judicial consequences”.

The panel’s tough-worded statement came as Russia’s opposition plans to stage new nationwide demonstrations expected to attract tens of thousands of people to protest alleged rigging of the vote.

As tens of thousands gathered in Moscow for a new protest rally, Russia’s liberal former finance minister Alexei Kudrin made his first appearance at such a demonstration.

‘Peaceful transformation’
In a speech that was nonetheless loudly whistled by protesters who disliked seeing a former top official, he warned starkly that Russia risked a new revolution if there was no dialogue between protesters and the Kremlin.

“There needs to be a platform for dialogue, otherwise there will be a revolution and we lose the chance that we have today for a peaceful transformation” of Russia, Kudrin said.

Despite resigning earlier this year in a spat with President Medvedev, Kudrin makes no secret of his allegiance to Putin, and the Russian strongman said last week he had recently met with Kudrin to discuss future projects, calling him his “friend”.
Medvedev on Thursday proposed political reforms to appease the protesters and the next day a relevant bill was submitted to the lower house of Parliament in a move Kudrin said did not allow any time for its public debate. — AFP

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Anna Smolchenko
Anna Smolchenko
Correspondent for AFP in Moscow.

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