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    » 03/05/2012, 00.00

    RUSSIA

    Putin returns to Kremlin, opposition returns to streets

    Nina Achmatova

    The former KGB agent wins the presidential election with 64% of the vote but has great challenges ahead: Demands for democratic reforms and the spectre of economic crisis.

    Moscow (AsiaNews) - Vladimir Putin's victory in the first round of the Russian presidential elections did not surprise anyone. But the vast number of complaints of fraud recorded by independent observers and international suspicions have erased the last hope of the opposition to find a path of political dialogue with Moscow. The situation is likely to become radicalized, with the movement "for honest elections" taking to the streets tonight with an unpredictable outcome.

    In front of 100 thousand fans gathered under the walls of the Kremlin, the former KGB spy was celebrated last night, on his third return to the Kremlin. With 64% of the vote, he beat off four rivals, who were harmless from the outset. "I promised to win, and we won in an open and honest fight," he told the crowd that cheered him, going up on stage along with the outgoing President Dimitri Medvedev. Photos showed him with the tears on his face, but few believe they were real. It 'was the fault of the wind, he explained a little later.

    The result of the vote is being passed as a victory over the enemies of the state, namely the opposition who have been calling for reform and political change. "Our people are able to distinguish between the desire for renewal and attempts to organize political provocation to destroy the state system and usurp power," he said from the stage set up under the walls of the Kremlin.

    Putin has won but he is far from easy with the opposition monitors NGO Golos who reported an actual fraud strategy based on so-called "carousel voting": groups of people brought to vote more than once in a station other than the one assigned.

    Tsar Putin returns, but with great challenges ahead of him; a part of the country, the most dynamic and growing, pushing for democratic reforms, intolerant of corruption, censorship and bureaucracy. There are also fears of an economic paralysis in the country that, after experiencing a boom, has also begun to slow due to the ongoing crisis in Europe, its largest export market.

    Putin's responses will also effect the evolution of the protests due to take to the streets of Pushinskaja later today. His triumph was a blow to the opposition. "We were expecting fraud, but not so blatant and or large-scale," said Alexei Navalny, the blogger and protest leader. "This shows that the authroities are not going to respond to our requests in a civilized manner," said Denis Bilunov, of the movement Solidarnost. "Putin could win without cheating - he continued - but he needed a test of strength and could not afford a second round, so he has humiliated us with this farce."

    Tonight authorities have authorized a gathering of up to 10 thousand people, but organizers are confident that far more people will hasten to Moscow to protest against elections deemed "illegitimate" and a president already being termed an "usurper" on the web.

    The central government knows that tensions could erupt at any moment. In an attempt to cool the atmosphere, the Kremlin, in the aftermath of the presidential elections, announced the review of the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of political prisoners. Will Putin III be open to reforms, seeking a compromise with a country completely different from when he took power in 2000, or empty promises and repression? Many believe this question may be answered as soon as tonight on the streets Pushkinskaja.

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    See also

    24/08/2012 RUSSIA
    Experts: a new Politburo to lead Russia
    According to the report of a leading Russian think tank, the 'tandem' structure no longer exists. In its place, a group of eight people representing different interests and the balance of which is the guarantor of President Putin.

    04/05/2012 RUSSIA
    Putin returns to Kremlin, opposition ready for challenge
    On 7 May, the inauguration of new president will be broadcast live on TV by six channels. The day before the opposition will return to the streets for the first time since March. But the numbers may not be the same.

    12/12/2011 RUSSIA
    Russia against Putin, the Orthodox Church warns against "revolutions"
    The central government fears uprisings along the lines of Ukraine’s orange revolution, but people just want to see their right to transparent elections respected. Medvedev opens an investigation into possible election fraud. Anti-Putin groups plans another rally for December 24.

    02/03/2012 RUSSIA
    Presidential elections in Russia: most tense in last 15 years
    109 million citizens are eligible to vote, and 96 thousand polling stations set up throughout the country. Certain victory for Prime Minister Putin over four challengers. Uncertainties of the post-election atmosphere.

    14/12/2011 RUSSIA
    Kommersant-Vlast magazine purged over Putin criticism
    The oligarch close to the Kremlin and the owner of the authoritative magazine, dismisses the director and the manager after a service on fraud in general elections on 4 December.



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