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   Russians braced for ruling elite to 'fiddle' parliamentary election

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5/17/2007 4:00 pm

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Guardian

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Entered 5/17/2007, Updated 5/17/2007

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Almost half of Russia's voters expect that the parliamentary election this year will be falsified by the ruling elite and defy the will of the people, a new poll indicates. In a sign of discontent with the Kremlin's manipulation of party politics, the Levada Centre discovered that 65% of 1,600 respondents were in favour of returning the chance to mark a ballot "against all candidates", a right removed in order to cut down on protest votes. Only 8% of those surveyed predicted that the election in December would be fair, and a third said they would consider the new parliament illegitimate. Vladimir Putin's administration has recently led a sustained attack on small liberal opposition parties, banning them or excluding them from local elections. The veteran Yabloko party was struck from ballots in St Petersburg on a technicality in March. Last month the tiny Republican party was liquidated for having too few members. The clampdown is seen as part of a wider push to consolidate control in the Kremlin, including increased pressure on non-governmental organisations and a series of prosecutions of regional leaders. Protesters at marches led by anti-Putin figures such as the former chess champion Garry Kasparov and the former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov were beaten last month.


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