Russia vote will stand despite protests, says Putin aide

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said Monday the results of contested parliamentary polls will stand despite massive street protests and a probe by the election authorities. “Even if you add up all this so-called evidence, it accounts for just over 0.5 percent of the total number of votes,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP in a telephone interview.
“So even if hypothetically you recognise that they are being contested in court, then in any case, this can in no way affect the question of the vote’s legitimacy or the overall results,” Peskov said. His comments followed an order from President Dmitry Medvedev for election officials to look into reports of vote-fixing after the ruling party’s narrow victory sparked the largest protest rallies since the 1990s.
Saturday’s historic demonstrations near the Kremlin saw more than 50,000 people deride the outcome of December 4 elections that were widely seen as a litmus test for Putin’s planned return to the presidency next year.
The rallies have put Putin under the strongest political pressure he has faced in his dominant 12-year rule and suggested that his path back to the Kremlin in March elections may be thornier than originally thought. They also appear to have sowed some confusion among Russian authorities who had never before faced such an evident groundswell of public resentment in the Putin era. Putin originally accused US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of inciting the unrest by questioning the poll’s legitimacy — a comment similar to the Cold War era rhetoric that dominated his 2000-2008 presidency.
But Putin’s spokesman Peskov said over the weekend that “we respect the point of view of the protesters … and will continue to listen to them”. Medvedev followed that up on Sunday by announcing the launch of an inquiry into the violations reports.
“I disagree with the slogans and declarations made at the meetings,” Medvedev wrote in his Facebook account. “Nevertheless, I have issued instructions to check all polling station reports about (failures) to follow election laws,” Medvedev wrote.
Putin himself shunned the public spotlight over the weekend and on Monday did not address the elections in comments aired on state television from his trip to the central region of Tver. Medvedev’s conciliatory remarks meanwhile were met by a flood of ridicule on his Facebook page and quickly rejected as insufficient by both activists and the opposition Communist Party.