Top Putin ally quits as Russia parliament speaker
A leading ally of Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he was quitting his post as Russian parliament speaker, after polls that saw the ruling party lose support and face protests against vote-rigging.
"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 December 4's parliamentary elections which saw the party's majority cut and then thousands take to the streets to accuse it of rigging the polls.
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.
Putin -- who is preparing to move to back to the presidency in 2012 polls from his current job as prime minister -- is facing one of the biggest challenges to his 12-year domination of Russia amid the wave of protests.
The opposition have promised a new mass protest on December 24 in Moscow to follow the rally that drew tens of thousands at the weekend in the biggest show of public anger in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.
United Russia has come under attack by the opposition as a "party of swindlers and thieves", a catchy slogan first made popular by the widely followed anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny.
Analysts have already predicted substantial shake-ups in the leadership of United Russia and the government as the authorities seek to respond to the party's election performance ahead of the March 2012 presidential polls.
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.
© 2011 AFP