Mikhail Gorbachev calls for a new vote in Russia
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities should annul the results of the parliamentary vote and hold a new one, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged Wednesday as popular indignation grew over widespread allegations of election fraud.
The call for an entirely new vote by the last president of the Soviet Union was a remarkable development for an election that had not generated much interest during the campaign. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had wanted to see his United Russia party do well to pave the way for his return to the presidency, but few Russians seemed to care about the vote, with many saying they assumed the results would be manipulated anyway.
United Russia won less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, a steep fall from the 64 percent it won four years ago. But opposition parties and independent observers say even that result was inflated by vote-rigging, including alleged ballot-box stuffing and false voter rolls.
Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency that authorities must hold a fresh election or deal with a rising tide of discontent.
“More and more people are starting to believe that the election results are not fair,” he told Interfax. “I believe that ignoring public opinion discredits the authorities and destabilizes the situation.”
Surprisingly, thousands of Russians have rallied in Moscow and St. Petersburg in the last two days, facing off against tens of thousands of police and Interior Ministry troops. Hundreds of protesters have been detained in both cities. The unusually sustained protests suggests Putin’s drive to regain his old job may not go as smoothly as he had expected.
The malaise revealed in Sunday’s parliamentary election suggested Russians are tiring of Putin and his United Russia party, which has dominated all other political forces in Russia for the past dozen years and earned a reputation for corruption.