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3 Dec, 2007 13:20

Putin thanks voters for support

Russian voters have been praised for their responsible attitude towards voting in Sunday’s election by President Vladimir Putin. He’s also thanked them for supporting the United Russia party. It comes as international observers from the OSCE and Council o

Putin says he sees the results as a sign of trust.

“I would like to thank Russian citizens, all the voters for their activity. This is the highest turnout for eight years. It's higher than in 1999 and 2003. It means that the citizens are well aware of the fact that a lot depends on the choice they make,” said he.

According to Russia’s leader, “a lot depends on what programmes and parties they choose. The choice has been made. I would like to especially thank those who voted for United Russia, certainly I headed the party's list. It is a sign of trust.”

“And for United Russia it's not just an estimate of what has been done, but also a symbol of the voters' expectations. Their expectations are that United Russia will continue its work tackling the social problems of citizens – these concerns mainly involve salaries, pensions, allowances, demographic programmes, health, science and education. I hope that United Russia will not let us down,” the Russian President pointed out. 

For United Russia, it's an absolute success, a victory, and a very good one. United Russia got a constitutional majority in the parliament and has strengthened its position. According to the latest count, I have been told, by 12 seats – it's a steady constitutional majority – 315 seats in the State Duma.” 

“It is not just United Russia that has strengthened its position – the Communist Party has too – the number of seats in the parliament for them has increased, the LDPR has also strengthened its position, and of course it's a big success that the Fair Russia party who were taking part in their first election has gone through to the State Duma.”

“And finally what I think is very important is that the legitimacy of this election has grown. While the previous fourth Duma, was backed by 70 per cent of the voters, the fifth State Duma is backed by 90 per cent of the voters, because only 10 per cent have voted for the parties that didn't make it through to parliament. So 90 per cent voted for the parties that are represented in the State Duma – that's a very high level of legitimacy,” he stressed.

“What also matters is that Russian citizens have showed a responsible attitude towards the country's development. It's now obvious for me that Russians will never allow their country to step on a destructive path of development, as it was in some other countries of the post-soviet space. I believe this sense of responsibility for the country is the crucial indicator of not only the economical strengthening of Russia, but also political. It's a good example of Russia's stability,” the President concluded.

This came as international observes delivered a scathing report saying the State Duma election did not meet international standards and was not fair.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe sent 105 observers who monitored booths in eight regions, while PACE had 42 observers in four towns.

The Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Goran Lennmarker, highlighted four major points: the merging of state and the political party, which is “an abuse of power and clear violation of international commitments”, strong bias of the media in favour of the President and the United Russia party, no conditions for new and small parties to develop and compete effectively, as well as reports of harassment of opposition parties in different ways.

“There are a lot of concerns about the evolution of democracy in the country,” added PACE Chairman Luc Van den Brande, who also called the election rather “a referendum to the President” and accused the ruling party of abuse of administrative resources.

Luc Van den Brande noted that Russia had broken the code of conduct of PACE members by allowing the president to run for parliament, instead of remaining neutral.

Both men agreed that observers achieved more by being within the country during the election, instead of boycotting it. However, both mentioned that they would have liked more staff.

Brande said he hoped more observers were in Russia for next year's presidential election.

Meanwhile, observers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation said they found no irregularities.

“We visited about 30 polling stations and we confirm that the Parliament election was open and fair and Russian residents were able to vote freely,” said SCO observer Gao Yusheng.

Also, according to the head of the CIS observers, Nauryz Aidarov, Russian election “has been free and transparent”.

Russian officials responded by calling the criticism biased, groundless and unbalanced.

To watch the media briefing by representatives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe follow the link.