Putin Ally Kudrin Backs Vote Monitoring After Opposition Talks

Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, a long-time ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who’s mediating with the opposition, said he supports efforts to monitor the fairness of the March 4 presidential poll.

Kudrin, writing in a Twitter Inc. posting today after a round of talks with Putin’s opponents, said he is in favor of their plan to form a “League of Voters” that will coordinate election monitoring. He said that negotiations should continue.

Putin, 59, is facing an unprecedented challenge to his 12-year rule as he seeks to return to the Kremlin in March. Opposition leaders are planning a major rally in Moscow on Feb. 4, after bringing tens of thousands of people on to the streets in December protests over alleged fraud in parliamentary polls. Kudrin, who was fired in September after clashing with President Dmitry Medvedev over plans to increase military spending, has called for a new parliamentary vote within 18 months and the dismissal of the country’s election chief.

One of the opposition leaders, Vladimir Ryzhkov, said yesterday that the talks with Kudrin broke down because the authorities had ignored demands for a repeat vote. “We should step up pressure on the government and get all our demands fulfilled,” Ryzhkov wrote on his website.

Putin says the Dec. 4 poll that handed a much reduced majority to his United Russia party was fair, while the opposition Communists say the party’s share of the vote was artificially inflated from 30 percent to about 50 percent.

The prime minister, who served the maximum two consecutive presidential terms allowed by the constitution between 2000 and 2008, needs to win more than 50 percent of votes to avoid a run-off contest.

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