Russian assembly convenes despite election protests

Russian assembly convenes despite election protests

Russian assembly convenes despite election protests

In this file photo a woman walks past an election billboard for Putin’s United Russia party and an election poster depicting Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov. AP photo

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev convened Dec. 13 the first session of Russia’s newly-elected parliament despite a wave of protests over alleged fraud that helped the ruling party cling on to its majority.

Medvedev acknowledged the vote-fraud complaints, but said lawmakers will meet on Dec. 21 anyway, ignoring demands that officials annul the election and start over. Medvedev told the leaders of the four parliamentary parties that “we must continue work not only on economic issues, but on reforming the political system. ... take more decisive steps to remove barriers on political activity.”

The decision ends any opposition hopes of forcing the authorities to call a re-run of a Dec. 4 vote that handed strongman Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia part a slim majority, despite sharply reduced support. Medvedev said he still intended to deliver his annual address to the nation on Dec. 22 -- two days before a mass opposition rally in Moscow is expected to draw some 50,000 people for the second time in two weeks. Putin is also due to address the worst political flare-up of his 12-year rule in an annual televised question and answer sessions with ordinary Russians today. But his spokesman said most Russians who had already sent in their questions and clearly had other pressing concerns on their mind.

Top Putin ally quits as Russia parliament speaker

A leading ally of Vladimir Putin said yesterday he was quitting his post as Russian parliament speaker. “I have decided to renounce my mandate as a member of parliament... It would be wrong to occupy the post of speaker for more than two terms,” said Boris Gryzlov in a statement on the website of the ruling United Russia party. Gryzlov made no mention of the controversy surrounding Dec. 4’s parliamentary elections. However he said he would continue in his post as chairman of United Russia, whose overall leader is Putin. Gryzlov had served two parliament terms as speaker since 2003. Gryzlov was mocked by the liberal press as a wooden speaker whose main interest was in keeping the State Duma as dull as possible. He was once notoriously quoted as saying “the Duma is not a place for discussion” and one of his rituals was to wear a “lucky” woollen jumper on election nights.

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