'An insult': Russian election observers reject Putin's win
Russia's League of Voters, organized in the wake of December's fraud-marred parliamentary election, called the March 4 presidential election 'an insult to civil society.'
Russia's newly-minted League of Voters, which fielded thousands of observers in last Sunday's presidential polls, said today that conduct of the voting was an "insult to civil society" and it will therefore not recognize Vladimir Putin's victory.Skip to next paragraph
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That judgment, coming from a prominent group that was organized in the wake of mass protests against electoral fraud in December, is certain to cast a shadow over Mr. Putin's win and fuel further street protests that are expected this weekend, although Golos, an older electoral monitoring group, said that the most recent election was at least cleaner than December's.
The League, which is led by Russian celebrities such as detective novelist Boris Akunin and rock musician Yury Shevchuk, said it calculated Putin's vote at no more than 53 percent – which would still be a solid first-round win, but is far short of the nearly 64 percent support that official results claim for Putin.
"Due to widespread violations, we consider it impossible to recognize the results of the presidential elections," the League's statement said. "We consider that on March 4 an insult was delivered to civil society. The institution of the Russian presidency, the electoral system and the whole state authority were discredited."
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The League suggested that much of Putin's allegedly inflated total was stolen from the dark horse liberal candidate, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, whom it said actually won 16 percent of the votes rather than the 8 percent given to him in official results.
Russia's official Central Electoral Commission said it had checked into the League's claims and found them groundless. "The League of Voters is pursuing some goal set beforehand," deputy commission chief Leonid Ivlev told the independent Interfax news agency. "They had said this repeatedly before the elections results were tallied and have just reiterated their preconceived conclusion now."
Putin's press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was blunter: "All assessments have been made. The question is closed," he told Interfax today.
"The elections were not honest, they were not equal and they were not fair," says Dmitry Oreshkin, a founder of the League and head of the independent Mercator think tank in Moscow. "In my view there is no point in taking complaints to civil courts, or to the Central Electoral Commission," where history shows they will be buried, he says. "This is now a criminal matter, and our League will stand behind anyone who initiates such a procedure."