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Democracy the loser as Putin triumphs (TELEGRAPH UK) By Julius Strauss in Moscow 12/09/03)Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;$sessionid$WI3PWWZP35OA1QFIQMFCFF4AVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2003/12/09/wrus09.xml&sSheet=/news/2003/12/09/ixnewstop.html DAILY TELEGRAPH DAILY TELEGRAPH Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The scale of Russia´s disillusionment with western-style democracy became apparent yesterday as the country´s two largest pro-western parties were all but wiped out in parliamentary elections.

Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, which campaigned on a platform of greater democracy and stronger ties with the West, had their representation decimated.

As comprehensive results from Sunday´s polling were published, President Putin´s United Russia came out the clear winner with 37.1 per cent of the vote and a majority of seats in the new State Duma.

Depending on the final count, United Russia could control two thirds of the Duma, allowing the president to change the constitution at will. Another quarter of the seats will be shared by anti-western reactionaries nostalgic for the days of Soviet superpower status.

The veteran ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky´s Liberal Democrats won 11.6 per cent of the vote.

Homeland, a party founded three months ago, won 9.1 per cent. The party leaders, a nationalist and a former Communist, campaigned on a promise to redistribute the nation´s wealth and reassert Russia as a regional power.

The biggest losers were the Communists, who have dominated the Duma for most of the last decade. Their support dropped to barely 13 per cent after state-run television savaged them throughout the campaign.

Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist leader, said: "You are all participants in a revolting spectacle which for some reason is called an election.

"There are all the signs that a fascist regime is being formed, a police state that will be run along the model espoused by Goebbels."

Analysts at one financial firm, Aton, summed up the shock in a research note: "Yesterday´s election shows what the people actually think: they are stridently nationalist, want wealth redistributed and have little interest in liberal or democratic values."

Igor Mintusov, of Nikkolo M, political campaign consultants, said: "It is a sad day for liberalism. The liberals in Russia are finished in the short term."

Western observers criticised Sunday´s poll. Bruce George, of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a democracy watchdog, said: "Our main impression of the overall electoral process was one of regression in the democratisation of this country.

"The enormous advantage of incumbency and access to state equipment, resources and buildings led to the election result being overwhelmingly distorted."

Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman, said: "We share those concerns."

Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of the pro-western Union of Right Forces, said Russia now faced the prospect of a return to a police state. Among the election results were some that engendered total disbelief.

In Chechnya, where voters are stridently anti-Kremlin, the electoral commission declared that United Russia had won nearly 80 per cent of the vote. Many of the new MPs won their seats campaigning for increased law and order.

In Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, Yevgeny Roizman, a convicted robber reputed to have links to organised crime, won 44 per cent of the vote. Mr Roizman, who runs a brutal drugs clinic where patients are chained and beaten, has promised to clean up the city.

Mr Putin, for whom the results are a ringing endorsement, was ebullient. But many feel a growing sense of a lack of direction. They say they are fed up with the entire political process. Turnout was about 50 per cent. (© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002. 12/09/03)

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