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The Russian presidential election is over in the first round. The results: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won a convincing victory with 64% (inbetween his 53% in 2000 and 73% in 2004) and will return to Kremlin for a six-year term of office. The opposition, both parliamentary and non-systemic, is discontent and plans mass street rallies. Political newcomer and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov surprisingly won the third place in the presidential race with 7.5% and observes are guessing whether the second “P” would side with the opposition or create a new party loyal to the first “P”.
It is noteworthy that Putin called Prokhorov on election night to congratulate him with “worthy result”. “Before I called I talked with journalists about a possibility to create another right-wing party. I wish you success,” Putin said clearly giving a green light to Prokhorov’s political ambitions after he was barred from heading the Right Cause party before the parliamentary election in December.
Prokhorov reiterated he would not accept any government post from Putin and will concentrate on the creation of a new party.
Nikolai Petrov from Carnegie Center believes Prokhorov suits Putin as his party would enjoy up to 8% of popular support and will advocate a strict financial discipline which is good for the Kremlin.
However Nezavisimaya Gazeta believes Prokhorov, who was second only to Putin in Moscow and St. Petersburg, “meets the interests and hopes of the so-called angry city residents – the creative class” who staged mass rallies protesting reported ballot-stuffing and fraud at the December parliamentary election.
“The result of Prokhorov is not his merit but rather the outcome of the existing situation as most people who voted for him wanted to show to Putin that he has competitors,” politician Leonid Gozman told Vedomosti daily.
Political scientist Gleb Pavlovsky agreed and said people voted for Prokhorov because they did not want to vote for Putin. “Future will depend on whether Russia for Putin and Russia against Putin can agree. So far we have a split Russia, I hope temporarily. Its bigger part residing in cities will not accept the election result,” he said.
Russian political heavyweight and long-standing Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who for the fifth time won silver in the race with over 17 percent of votes, refused to accept the results and described the election as “illegitimate, unfair, and non-transparent.” His ally and Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov called on people to go to the streets and protest.
Radical non-systemic opposition also criticized the election. “How can we call the election fair if no opposition, but only selected stunts were allowed to run?” co-chair of unregistered Party of Popular Freedom (PARNAS) Boris Nemtsov asked.
Experts believe Putin will have to compromise with the opposition. “If Putin does not agree on a dialogue with the Communists and street protesters the election was held in vain. A dialogue and social compromise are necessary,” said political scientist Mikhail Remizov.
Another political scientist, Stanislav Belkovsky, believes “a soft evolution scenario will not succeed” as mass opposition protests are planned in Moscow already on Monday.
“I fear a major part of opposition activists will undertake direct actions that will result in arrests and detentions. That will provoke a growth of participants in peaceful protests. A real fight for power will begin which will end in Putin’s concessions as the use of force is impossible today,” he said.
Incidentally, outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev who is to swap jobs with Putin after inauguration in May sent a positive signal to the opposition right after it became known that Putin won the election in the first round.
He ordered his administration to draft a lawbill on Constitutional Assembly and to check the lawfulness of verdicts in several high-profile cases, including the YUKOS case. The Kremlin said the instructions were the result of Medvedev’s meeting with the opposition on the eve of the election.
Medvedev instructed the prosecutor general “to analyze the lawfulness and grounds for guilty verdicts” to people who the opposition described as “political prisoners.” They include former YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his companion Platon Lebedev and another 30 people.
Medvedev also instructed the justice ministry to substantiate its refusal to register PARNAS.
MOSCOW, March 5.