* Ex-Soviet leader says Putin must listen to the people
* Gorbachev calls for presidential term limits
* Gorbachev criticises presidential election
By Guy Faulconbridge
MOSCOW, March 6 Former Soviet leader
Mikhail Gorbachev said on Tuesday he was troubled by a
presidential election in which Vladimir Putin claimed victory
and called for a discussion of whether to hold a new election.
Prime Minister Putin says he won the election fairly but
international monitors said the vote was skewed in his favour.
Putin's opponents accept that he won the most votes but say the
official election results exaggerate his popularity.
Gorbachev, reviled by millions of Russians for unleashing
the reforms that helped sink the Soviet Union, said it was clear
there were problems during both the Dec. 4 parliamentary
election and the March 4 presidential election.
"It is clear there was something up with these elections,"
Gorbachev, 81, told Ekho Moskvy radio station, though he refused
to cite specific worries, saying he had been preoccupied with
unidentified medical issues.
The father of "perestroika" (restructuring) and "glasnost"
(openness) called for reform of Russia's electoral system
including a discussion of whether to hold "extraordinary
Official results show Putin won 63.6 percent of the
presidential vote, or 45.5 million votes, more than three times
his closest rival, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who won
17.2 percent of the vote, or 12.3 million votes.
Gorbachev expressed distaste at what he said were insulting
attempts by Putin to cast some Russian citizens as enemies
because they opposed his rule.
Facing mass protests in December, Putin initially dismissed
demonstrators as the paid agents of foreign powers and used
references to Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book to suggest opponents
were chattering monkeys.
"I was surprised when he said it the first time - when
citizens became enemies," said Gorbachev. "It was so insulting,
so lacking in respect that he should apologise."
Gorbachev, who is feted in the West for ignoring hardliners
who advised him to crush growing dissent in the eastern bloc
which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, said that
Putin should listen to the people and address concerns over the
"The time has come to listen," he said.
Putin's supporters dismiss Gorbachev as a failure who sank
the Soviet empire, capitulated to the West and unleashed years
of chaos which was only tamed when Putin rose to power in 1999.
Gorbachev, who ruled from 1985 until 1991, said that there
should be a limit of two presidential terms per person, a rule
that would have prevented Putin running for president in the
March 2012 election.
"Two terms, no matter whether four or five or six years, it
differs, but no more," said Gorbachev.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge)