Call for new Moscow poll after votes disappear

MOSCOW Fri Oct 23, 2009 12:07pm EDT

Police detain Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of the small pro-western Yabloko party, during a rally outside a court in Moscow in 2005. REUTERS/Konstantin Koutsyllo

Police detain Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of the small pro-western Yabloko party, during a rally outside a court in Moscow in 2005.

Credit: Reuters/Konstantin Koutsyllo

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian opposition leader said on Friday he would take legal action to demand that disputed Moscow city elections be held again, after discovering his own vote had not been counted in the October 11 polls.

Opposition lawmakers last week briefly walked out of the federal parliament in a challenge to the results, which have been endorsed by the Central Electoral Commission and President Dmitry Medvedev as fair overall.

"Our goal is to force a full cancellation of the results of the election and the appointment of a new date for polling. We will make all the efforts to reach this," Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of the small pro-western Yabloko party, told Reuters.

Mitrokhin said the fact that no votes for his party had been recorded at his polling station meant neither his own vote nor that of his wife could have been counted on election day. They were subsequently found in a recount.

"We will insist on this through the courts, the prosecutors office and the Moscow electoral commission," he said.

The spokeswoman for Russia's Central Electoral Commission declined to comment on Yabloko's legal challenge on Friday.

ANOTHER 50 YEARS?

Russia's ruling party, United Russia, crushed opposition parties in the local elections held across much of Russia, with the results for the Moscow region handing Putin's party more than 90 percent of its seats.

Yabloko lost its Moscow representation completely.

Independent electoral observers Golos claimed there was ballot-stuffing, impersonation and biased campaigns in many parts of Russia and warned the country could soon revert to a Soviet-style society.

Putin's response to opposition criticism of the election was to say losers always felt offended. He advised his opponents to seek justice in courts.

Medvedev has repeatedly promised greater democracy and pluralism in his speeches but opposition politicians and independent analysts say the tightly controlled political system is squeezing out the last pockets of dissent.

The president, who like Putin has made clear he might seek a new Kremlin term in 2012, said on Friday one should not expect quick and drastic changes to Russia's current system.

"Russia is simply organized in such a way that if a certain issue is not given enough attention at the very top, then usually nothing comes of it, as a rule," Medvedev said during a visit to Tatarstan's capital Kazan.

"Maybe, only in some 50 years no presidential attention will be needed."

The Soviet Union's last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, has criticized the elections as a "mockery" of democratic standards.

"The electoral system is completely disfigured. It needs an alternative," he said in an interview with Novaya Gazeta newspaper on Monday.

Medvedev is expected to meet Russia's main opposition parties on Saturday.

(Additional reporting by Denis Dyomkin in Kazan; editing by Andrew Roche)

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