Russians took to the streets on Monday and Tuesday to protest unfair parliamentary elections held last week. Thousands of people attended rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg in defiance of the government and in support of opposition parties.
According to BBC, “Russian protesters defying a ban on unapproved rallies have faced off with supporters of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow city centre.” Hundreds of protesters were arrested throughout the day in both cities as demonstrators clashed with security forces and pro-government activists.
A number of Russian journalists covering the protests were also detained according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The organization has condemned the “heavy-handed actions by Russian authorities” following Sunday’s election results.
Russians went to the polls on December 4th to elect new parliamentary representatives. Although opposition parties garnered significantly more support than in previous elections, there were widespread reports of electoral fraud both leading up to the election and during ballot counting.
Representatives from the United States were quick to respond to allegations of electoral fraud. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that “we have serious concerns about the conduct of those December 4th parliamentary elections.” He added that:
“These concerns are reflected in the preliminary report issued by the OSCE’s (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) election observation mission, including a lack of fairness in the process, attempts to stuff ballot boxes, and the manipulation of voter lists, among other things.”
According to the OSCE report cited by Carney, “the preparations for the 4 December State Duma elections were technically well-administered across a vast territory, but the elections were marked by a convergence of the State and the governing body.” The report states that:
“The contest was also slanted in favour of the ruling party as evidenced by the lack of independence of the election administration, the partiality of most media, and the undue interference of state authorities at different levels. This all did not provide the necessary conditions for fair electoral competition.”
Prime Minister Putin’s party, United Russia, saw its once strong majority severely reduced following the election. According to RT, “with just under 50% of the vote, the party of the president [Dimitry Medvedev] and prime minister has lost significant clout, its parliamentary muscle a shadow of the two-thirds majority it boasted for years.”
The lack of transparency in Russian democracy has been heavily criticized by electoral observers since the system’s inception following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Duma is Russia’s parliamentary body.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s is gearing up for the country’s presidential election in 2012. It is highly likely that he will be elected to his third term as president. The Russian constitution does not allow for the president to serve three consecutive terms. Current Russian President Dimitry Medvedev will not seek re-election.