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Putin Promises Fair Election as ‘New Year’s Gift’ for Russia

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Photographer: Alexei Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised fair presidential elections in March as a poll showed that 44 percent of people support recent protests over alleged voter fraud.

“Honest presidential elections in 2012,” Putin told reporters in Moscow today, when asked what he can offer to Russians as a New Year’s gift. The premier said he was ready for dialogue with the country’s opposition groups, though they need to articulate a coherent platform.

Putin, 59, is facing the biggest demonstrations since he came to power more than a decade ago over accusations of ballot-rigging in Dec. 4 parliamentary elections. He’s seeking to return to the presidency in March 4 polls after pushing aside his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev.

An opinion poll published today by the Moscow-based Levada Center showed that 44 percent of Russians support demonstrations over voter fraud, with 41 percent opposed.

According to the survey of 1,600 people from Dec. 16-20, 54 percent of Russians believe elections have become an instrument for the bureaucracy to remain in power, with 24 percent disagreeing. The poll had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Putin said yesterday he doesn’t need “any manipulation” to win the presidential election as he maintained his refusal to review this month’s disputed parliamentary ballot.

“I want to rely on the will of the people,” Putin said at a meeting with his All-Russia People’s Front in Moscow. “Otherwise it doesn’t make sense.”

The premier’s opponents are demanding that the parliamentary elections be held again and the March presidential poll delayed to ensure it is taking place under democratic rules.

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