Kremlin panel urges new polls, firing of election chief

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The Kremlin's rights panel on Saturday called for the resignation of Russia's election chief and snap parliamentary elections in a damning statement on "discredited" polls that sparked mass demonstrations.

The recommendations by the panel -- which advises President Dmitry Medvedev on rights and social issues -- are not binding but will add to pressure on the authorities for radical changes after the December 4 polls.

It said that there was "mass distrust of the poll results" which showed fallen support for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party but still gave it a majority in parliament.

The Kremlin panel added that new election laws should be put in place "with the aim of then calling snap elections" to replace the current parliament that met for its first session on Wednesday.

It also called for the resignation of the head of the Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov who once proudly said he was operating under a law called "Putin is always right."

"This post should immediately be taken up by a person with an impeccable reputation who commands respect in civil society," the Kremlin panel said, urging a probe into reports of violations.

The statement cited "numerous reports of ballot stuffing, re-writing of protocols of ballot results, an unjustified removal of observers and journalists (from polling stations), a ban on photography and video recording and other violations of electoral rights"

It also pointed to "inexplicable paradoxes of electoral statistics".

"This discredits the electoral system and the lower house of parliament... morally and politically and creates a real threat to the Russian state," the panel said.

A state-controlled television channel led its morning news bulletin broadcast with the report of the Kremlin panel, in a move indicating that Churov's job could be at risk.

But the commission dismissed the call, with its member Yelena Dubrovina telling the Interfax news agency that "this decision does not have any legal, judicial consequences."

The panel's tough-worded statement came as Russia's opposition plans to stage new nationwide demonstrations expected to attract tens of thousands of people to protest alleged rigging of the vote.

Russia's former liberal finance Minister Alexei Kudrin came out in support of the rally, revealing he too disagreed with the poll and offered his help in establishing dialogue between protestors and the authorities.

"I share your negative emotions about the results of the parliamentary polls in our country," Kudrin said in an open letter published on the website of Kommersant, calling for a "non-violent transformation of our political system."

"I am ready to support a plan to organise this substantive dialogue between society and the authorities," said the ex-minister who resigned in September after a public spat with President Dmitry Medvedev and is expected to attend the protest.

Despite resigning, Kudrin makes no secret of his allegiance to Putin, and the Russian strongman said last week he had recently met with Kudrin to discuss future projects, calling him his "friend."

In his letter, Kudrin appeared to support Putin, citing his decision to install anti-fraud web cameras at polling stations across the country in time for the March presidential vote in which the Russian strongman is expected to win his old Kremlin job.

He lobbed a jab at Medvedev however, saying authorities "still do not want to talk" to protestors.

Medvedev on Thursday proposed political reforms to appease the protestors and the next day a relevant bill was submitted to the lower house of parliament in a move Kudrin said did not allow any time for its public debate.

© 2011 AFP

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