June 22 (Bloomberg) -- Russia’s non-Communist opposition criticized Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after authorities barred it from registering a party to compete in December parliamentary elections.
“I regret that Putin decided not to allow our party to participate in the elections,” Mikhail Kasyanov, who served as prime minister during Putin’s 2000-2008 presidency and is part of a pro-democracy opposition grouping, said in a statement on his website. “He’s obviously afraid of taking a risk.”
The Justice Ministry said today that it had refused to register the party, Parnas, because it had violated federal rules, including by submitting names of registered members who are deceased.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States was “troubled” and “disappointed” in the decision to bar Parnas. She noted “reports of pressure from authorities designed to intimidate Parnas supporters, prompting them to resign positions or disavow their signatures on required lists.”
“The right to hold free, fair, competitive elections is a universal principle that the Russian government has repeatedly endorsed,” Clinton said in the statement. “It is hard to understand how this decision today by the Ministry of Justice is consistent with Russia’s international commitments and recent statements.”
‘Alarming, Concerning Trend’
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. believes many of the “irregularities" cited by Russian authorities are ‘‘minor administrative errors."
‘‘I think what we’re seeing is an alarming, concerning trend," Toner said at a briefing in Washington.
Kasyanov, together with Boris Nemtsov, a deputy prime minister under the late President Boris Yeltsin, and two other opposition figures, said they will use a popular vote to select a joint candidate for the presidential election in March.
Kasyanov, 53, was disqualified from running in the 2008 presidential election, when Putin’s approved candidate, Dmitry Medvedev, won with more than 70 percent of the vote and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov received 17.7 percent. In 2004, the leading pro-democracy candidate, Irina Khakamada, won 3.9 percent of the vote.
Putin, 58, relinquished the presidency to Medvedev in 2008 because the constitution prohibits three consecutive terms. He hasn’t ruled out running for president next year.
‘‘The elections won’t be free and fair and the Russian authorities are continuing to violate the Constitution and the country’s international obligations,’’ Kasyanov said.
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