'Unfair' Russian elections slated
Clinton calls for investigation as Putin's party win majority
THE United States expressed "serious concern" yesterday about the conduct of Russia's parliamentary elections, which monitors said had stifled competition and were unfair.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an investigation into the election, in which the United Russia party of Vladimir Putin gained a narrow majority but lost nearly 15pc of support. Several thousands people took the streets of Moscow last night to protest against Mr Putin and his party, in what was estimated to be the largest opposition rally in years.
In remarks almost certain to antagonise Mr Putin, Mrs Clinton said monitors from the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe had raised questions about the possible stuffing of ballot boxes, manipulation of voter lists "and other troubling practices".
She said Washington was also concerned that internal Russian vote monitors were harassed, including by cyber-attacks on their websites.
"Russian voters deserve a full investigation of all credible reports of electoral fraud and manipulation, and we hope in particular that then Russian authorities will take action," said Mrs Clinton.
"The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve free, fair, transparent elections and leaders who are accountable to them."
Britain's foreign secretary William Hague said Britain accepted the OCSE's report. "It does give rise to serious concerns and I hope this will be taken very seriously by the Russian authorities."
OSCE observers said the vote was marred by "serious indications of ballot stuffing" and "a convergence of the state and the governing party, limited political competition and a lack of fairness".
"These elections were like a game in which only some players are allowed on the pitch, and then the field is tilted in favour of one of the players," said Heidi Tagliavini, the chief observer from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Winning almost half the vote would be considered a triumph in many countries, but the sharp fall in support, coupled with fraud allegations, meant United Russia had little to celebrate.
The election was the first chance Russians had been given to pronounce on Mr Putin's return to the presidency next year, after four years as prime minister. (© Daily Telegraph, London)