x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Putin belittles opposition as leaderless and without goals

Russian prime minister promises a transparent presidential election next year in his first comments since a mass protest against his rule.

MOSCOW // The Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, accused the opposition yesterday of lacking goals and leaders and promised a transparent presidential election next year, in his first comments since a mass protest against his rule over the weekend.

"The problem is that they have no single programme," he told his All Russia People's Front, an umbrella movement of his supporters.

"They have many individual programmes, but no unified one and no clear way to reach their goals, which are also not clear, and there are no people who would be able to do anything concrete."

Mr Putin faced the biggest protest of his 12-years in power on Saturday when tens of thousands of Russians demanded a rerun of a December parliamentary election which gave Putin's United Russia party a small majority in parliament.

Demonstrations that followed the December 4 election have galvanised Russia's fractured opposition, marginalised by years of Mr Putin's rule, but the movement still lacks a strong leader.

Mr Putin said protesters were trying to undermine the legitimacy of the parliamentary vote and called for a transparent presidential election scheduled for March.

"When this kind of situation emerges, there is always an attempt to devalue and undermine the legitimacy of everything that happened in the public sphere, including and, most of all, the electoral process," he said.

"Therefore everything must be done in order to ensure that elections are understandable, transparent and objective."

International monitors have said the December poll was slanted in favour of Putin's United Russia party and marred by cases of ballot stuffing and other violations.