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Moscow rally gathers record number of protesters

December 26, 2011, 12:26 UTC+3

The Saturday opposition rally in Moscow differed from a similar action

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MOSCOW, December 26 (Itar-Tass) — The Saturday opposition rally in Moscow differed from a similar action that took place two weeks ago both in the number of participants and quality. According to various assessments, from 80 to 100 thousand people gathered in Sakharov Avenue. It has become the largest protest action over the past 20 years.

The opposition was content with the event and has promised to stage another rally in February - if the authorities ignore the adopted by the rally resolution on a new parliamentary campaign, liberalisation of the election legislation and resignation of head of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Vladimir Churov.

The rally “For Fair Elections”, which was staged in Sakharov Avenue on Saturday, was just as massive as the Bolotnaya Square protest, even though the organisers did not believe that more than 10 thousand people would gather because of the frost, RBC Daily writes. The estimates concerning the number of the action participants have traditionally differed. Law enforcers said about 29 thousand people gathered, and the organisers - about 120 thousand. According to estimates of the volunteer project Citizen Observer, the rally was attended by 72.4 thousand people, excluding journalists and speakers. The speeches again were different, and the protesters met them with a mixed reaction. However, the main event was a sharp reaction to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s live TV Q&A session, much of which was openly ridiculed by those who gathered.

The sensation of the event was the appearance of ex-Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin on the stage, the newspaper notes. He was not on the list of speakers, he himself on the rally day published a lengthy article saying that the protesters should demand liberalisation of the political system. His speech was radical, as if delivered by an inveterate liberal who has never worked in the government system.

The ex-finance minister demanded resignation of CEC head Vladimir Churov, declared the need to hold re-elections to the State Duma, because a new economic crisis is looming, urged the Kremlin to adopt new legislation on political parties, to register these parties and advised protesters to elect a group of people that will make a list of demands to the authorities in order to avoid “confrontation turning into another revolution.” His speech was met with mixed reaction, however, the same as the appearance on the stage of many other speakers.

Alexei Kudrin has started consultations on the establishment of a new party, Kommersant writes. He made this statement to the publication on Saturday, after, speaking at a protest meeting, he supported the demands for early Duma elections and urged the protesters to “organise a platform for dialogue” with the government. Experts believe that the elite is seeking a way out of the stalemate in which it found itself after the December 4 elections.

“People came out to protest against the results of the Duma elections, but are protesting on the principle “we write December 4, but have in mind Putin’s third term,” believes political scientist Boris Makarenko, quoted by the newspaper. The invitation to dialogue published by Kudrin means, according to the expert, that the government traditionally takes correct tactical moves. “It has no strategic options,” ··believes Makarenko.

The authorities have not yet developed a strategy of response to the changed political reality, regrets head of the Foundation for Effective Politics Gleb Pavlovsky, quoted by Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “The country’s leadership so far gives only a reaction to the current events - without any attempt to take even one step back and look at them from the outside. And at the same time is acting largely at random. The source for the authorities are the mass media ... “ The Kremlin and the White House believe that it is the political opposition that confronts them. However, the expert says, “Putin’s children, the children of the system gather at the square. They do not want another parliamentary model, but demand a fair game.” The power, Pavlovsky is certain, “must develop fair rules of the game, clean up its technology and personnel: but nothing is factually said about this. Instead, we see an attempt to shift responsibility to the lower echelon management personnel.”

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