Russia’s Medvedev rejects calls for new elections, orders probe into alleged fraud
Russian President Medvedev makes announcement on his Facebook page; two opposition parties offer to return seats they won in order to force new elections.
Russia's government will not accede to demands by protesters, who say last week's elections were rigged, to hold a new vote, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced Sunday on his Facebook page.
"I do not endorse any of the statements or calls that were made in the gatherings," he said, referring to protests Saturday that drew more than 100,000 out in Moscow, according to organizers.
Protesters' demands also included the release of all political prisoners and the resignation of election officials, particularly Vladimir Churov, head of the election commission.
However, Medvedev said he has instructed that all reports out of election offices be reviewed to see if they were consistent with election law.
Two opposition parties, the Communist party and “A Just Russia,” announced Sunday that that they are ready to discuss the possibility of returning the seats they won in the elections, in order to orce new parliamentary elections.
The Communist party won 20 percent of the vote in the latest elections, giving them 92 parliamentary seats, while “A Just Russia” won 64 seats.
According to official results, the United Russia party of Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won just under 50 per cent of the vote in the December 4 parliamentary elections, enough to retain control of the government, but a significant drop on previous support.
However, protesters said the party would have fared even worse, had the election been fair.
The mood in Russia has darkened significantly in the last week, with ongoing protests against the election returns. This comes on top of suspicions over the ruling party's willingness to step aside were it to lose an election, especially with Putin planning to take over again as president next year.
Putin served as president from 2000-2008, stepping down because of a two-term limit. He then took over as prime minister, but only after transferring significant powers to that position. His move back to the presidency has many observers curious about his long term plans.
Putin said Sunday he respected the views of the demonstrators.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in a statement that the government "respects the point of view of the protesters" and is "hearing what is being said."