President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday made a final push to ensure ruling party United Russia keeps its dominance in legislative polls, saying the country needed a stable parliament untroubled by divisions.
Medvedev is heading the party list for United Russia in Sunday’s elections and opinion polls have shown that while it is still almost certain to keep a majority in parliament, its support may be eroding after years of dominance.
In an address to the nation being broadcast across the country’s nine time zones, Medvedev made clear he did not want to see a squabbling and tightly contested parliament of the kind Russia had in the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin.
He said Russia needed a “credible legislative organ where the parliament majority carries out responsible politics capable of helping raise the quality of life of our people.” He spoke out against electing a parliament “that is torn by irreconcilable contradictions and is not capable of deciding anything, which unfortunately we have already had in our history.” “Make the right choice on December 4,” he told voters on what is the last day of legal campaigning.
Medvedev did not mention United Russia directly but his comments were a clear call to vote for the party whose dominance has been compared by critics to the grip of the Communist Party on the USSR.
Up to three relatively tame opposition parties are expected to win seats in the next parliament, with liberal anti-Kremlin forces again not represented and the Communist Party the largest opposition faction.
In an illustration of the authorities’ ability to use their administrative resources in the campaign, Muscovites woke up Friday to find a United Russia brochure boasting of the record of Putin and Medvedev in their letterboxes.
“Together we will win!” says the cover which features Russia’s two leaders standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
But a relatively weak showing for United Russia would be troubling for the authorities after Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he will seek to return to the Kremlin in 2012 polls determined Russia’s medium term political future.
Medvedev is to take Putin’s current post as prime minister, in a job swap that will continue their tandem rule of Russia for the years to come.
The build-up to Sunday’s polls has been marred by what commentators describe as unprecedented violations, ranging from local officials setting targets for United Russia’s vote share to campaigning taking place in schools.
The Moscow authorities launched a social poster campaign urging people to exercise their right to vote before slyly using exactly the same style and colours in United Russia posters with the slogan “For Life, For People”.
The Vedomosti daily said that several factories and other establishments in the Vladimir region west of Moscow — where the Communists are traditionally strong — had announced a working day on Sunday and would set up polling stations on site to mobilise the United Russia vote.
Amid the swirling accusations of serial violations, Russian prosecutors on Thursday warned Russia’s leading independent vote monitor Golos that it was being probed for breaching campaign rules.
According to the Interfax news agency, the head of Russia’s Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov has accused Golos of “disproportionately negative reports about one party — United Russia.” As if by coincidence, the organisation was also to be the subject of a muck-raking documentary to be broadcast on a pro-Kremlin Russian channel later Friday.
But Medvedev, who described elections as “one of the greatest manifestations of democracy”, insisted that the polls were being held in fair conditions.
He said all seven parties registered to take part “have been given all the necessary conditions for a free and fair competition.
MOSCOW – Agence France- Presse