Russia vote will stand despite protests: Putin
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
An areal view shows crowds gathering at Bolotnaya Sqare during an opposition protest action against the alleged mass fraud in the December 4 parliamentary polls in central Moscow, on December 10, 2011. AFP photoRussian 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.
Putin himself stayed out of the public spotlight over the weekend and was scheduled on Monday to officially launch a new reactor at a nuclear power station in the central Russian region of Tver.
But Medvedev on Sunday responded to the demonstrations by announcing the launch of an inquiry into the violation 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.
Medvedev's conciliatory remarks were met by a flood of ridicule on his Facebook page and quickly rejected as insufficient by both the liberal opposition and the Communist Party, the new parliament's second-largest bloc.
"Coward, coward and once again coward!" wrote blogger Sergei Slaikovsky in one of the more than 10,000 Facebook messages Medvedev received by Monday morning.
"We do not trust Medvedev's words," added Communist Party secretary Sergei Obukhov in an interview with AFP.
"The Communist Party is using every legal resource available to contest these vote results." Former cabinet minister turned liberal Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov called Medvedev's promise to look into specific violation reports "a mockery".
"These are worthless instructions ... that are not going to calm anyone down," Nemtsov told Moscow Echo radio.
Rally organisers have already promised to return to the same Moscow square en masse on December 24 and possibly hold smaller rallies at various locations before then.
A coalition of liberal and nationalist groups on Monday asked the Moscow mayor's office to sanction the December 24 rally for up to 50,000 people just steps away from the Kremlin.
City authorities had until the middle of the week to respond.
Pro-Kremlin youth groups meanwhile were due Monday to stage their own mass gathering in central Moscow under the slogan "Glory to Russia!" The authorities have previously used youth groups to demonstrate public support for Kremlin rule and the United Russia party that retained a narrow majority in parliament.