[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Associated Press, March 10, 2004

Russian Human Rights Groups Decry Vote

By Maria Danilova

MOSCOW (AP) - Human rights groups, liberal politicians and protesters on Wednesday again denounced an upcoming presidential election as unfair, saying the Kremlin had all but orchestrated President Vladimir Putin's return to power.

One group that has been highly critical of the vote - and the lavish media attention Putin has received recently - repeated calls for a boycott, saying the only way for Russians to show their dissatisfaction would be to drive voter turnout below the required 50 percent minimum.

"Low turnout is what (authorities) are most afraid of and that is exactly what we should do," said journalist Viktor Shenderovich, a leader of Committee 2008: Free Choice, a group that has called for voters to stay home.

The election "can be compared to a soccer game, which has no goal, no ball and no field - just the score on the scoreboard, and you are being invited to watch the score," said Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party.

Several hundred people decried the upcoming vote at an anti-Putin rally in the center of the Russian capital. Liberals, communists and radicals held signs reading "Russia without Putin" or "Stop the war in Chechnya."

``We live in poverty, freedom of speech is being stifled, the FSB (the successor agency to the KGB) is ruling the country - that is why I will never vote for Putin,'' said Valentina, a 78-year-old retiree at the rally who refused to give her last name.

A dozen young Putin supporters also attended, holding signs reading ``Hands off our president.''

Putin is all but certain to win Sunday's presidential vote. He faces five opponents who aren't expected to draw more than single-digit support.

``Election results have increasingly reflected the will of officials - from the Kremlin down to municipal authorities - rather than the will of citizens,'' said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

Liberal presidential candidate Irina Khakamada criticized the proposed boycott and urged liberals to vote for her to prevent the vote from being what she called ``the last election.''

Meeting a group of Olympic athletes Wednesday, Putin said he carried the spirit of sportsmanship into the vote. ``My coaches in sports always taught me to treat other competitors with respect,'' he said.

Also Wednesday, Yavlinsky said his party will contest results of the December parliament vote, suing in 78 regional courts to annul votes from 170 of Russia's 225 regional election commissions. The party claims nearly half a million votes were inaccurate.

The president has just finished a Cabinet reshuffle that was widely seen as an effort to enliven the race and to recruit staunch loyalists whom he can fully trust.

Putin's reform nearly halved the number of Cabinet seats, but most ministries and federal agencies will survive under new names and maintain their full staff, the nation's new prime minister said Wednesday.

Putin's new premier, Mikhail Fradkov, insisted Wednesday the reshuffle is aimed at creating a more efficient administration in order to make Russia more competitive on the global market - the latest Kremlin mantra.

``Competitiveness is the key goal,'' Fradkov said at his first news conference, beginning his comments to reporters by addressing them as ``comrades.''

While emphasizing the focus on speeding up growth and enhancing economic efficiency, Fradkov acknowledged most of the disbanded ministries will continue to exist under new names. ``It's very important to preserve continuity,'' he said.


See also:

Presidential elections 2004

State Duma elections 2003

Associated Press, March 10, 2004

[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Project Director: Vyacheslav Erohin e-mail: admin@yabloko.ru Director: Olga Radayeva, e-mail: english@yabloko.ru
Administrator: Vlad Smirnov, e-mail: vladislav.smirnov@yabloko.ru