Putin takes formal step to regain Kremlin seat

Putin takes formal step to regain Kremlin seat

Putin takes formal step to regain Kremlin seat

Russian PM Vladimir Putin (R) visits the Central Elections Commission. AFP photo

Vladimir Putin filed candidacy papers for a March 4 presidential election yesterday while his opponents prepared for more protests over a parliamentary vote they say was rigged in favor of his ruling party. Some 5,000 people turned out Dec. 5 night for the largest opposition protest in Moscow in years, many chanting “Russia without Putin!” More than 300 were detained Dec. 6 after a similar demonstration.

Putin submitted his registration documents in a brief and nearly silent visit to the Central Election Commission headquarters in a lane near the Kremlin. Registration as a candidate is a formal step towards what could be 12 more years in the top job for Putin. He was president from 2000 to 2008 and is now prime minister, but the 59-year-old remains Russia’s paramount leader.

But voters bruised Putin on Dec. 4 by sharply reducing his party’s majority in the State Duma lower house, which he uses as both an instrument of power and a source of support. United Russia received 49.4 percent of the votes, according to the election commission, down from 64.3 percent in 2007. It will have 238 seats in the 450-member Duma, down from 315 now.

Police swamped the center of the capital Dec. 6 and said they detained more than 300 people on and around Triumph Square, where hundreds or even thousands more tried to protest. Another 250 were detained in St Petersburg. Meanwhile, Russian authorities should annul the parliamentary vote results and hold a new election, ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged yesterday as popular indignation grew over widespread reports of alleged election fraud. Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency that authorities must hold a fresh election or deal with a rising tide of discontent.

The White House has also expressed serious concern about the conduct of the election and Russia said that U.S. criticism was “unacceptable”. Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that Clinton’s actions showed “disrespect” to the 56-member OSCE.

Compiled from Reuters and AP stories by the Daily News staff.