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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec. 3, 2007

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Opposition leaders like Garry Kasparov drew a big cross on their ballot papers during the State Duma elections on December 2nd, 2007- their verdict on what they call a rigged election. (AFP/BBC)

It has been recorded that United Russia has received over 60% of the vote from Russia’s 108 million registered voters (a 60% turnout). The Communist party currently stands at 11.4%; the LDPR at 9.5%; and 7.5% for A Just Russia. The liberal Yabloko party and the Union of Right Forces, the parties that faced the greatest obstacles in their election campaigns, both received “XX percent”. The official results will be given December 7 or 8. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said he had hoped to win 30% of the vote. “We do not trust this data,” he said. “These elections are seen as undemocratic, unfair and not free in many regions.” There were many reported violations of election laws. At one polling station in the town of Pestovo, in the Novgorod region, dozens of ballots were already marked with a check next to United Russia, according to a local voter. Golos, the only independent Russian monitoring group, said it received more than 3,500 calls on its complaints hotline. Monitors say the result was “inflated by up to 20% through a campaign of intimidation and negative PR.” The Kremlin are hoping that a crushing win for United Russia will act as “an endorsement for Vladimir Putin to stay on as leader of the country next year”, despite having to give up the presidency in the spring. Boris Gryzlov, the United Russia leader and speaker of the parliament, said: “The vote affirmed the main idea: that Vladimir Putin is the national leader, that the people support his course, and this course will continue.” The new rules introduced for the elections by the government are listed here, and “Five Myths” about the “election” can be found here. Russia’s Chechnya region, “once the Kremlin’s biggest headache,” emerged as Putin’s most enthusiastic supporter, with 99.4% reportedly voting for United Russia. The Russian Central Election Commission says it has not received a single complaint from its 299 international observers. The general daily crime rate in Russia reportedly halved on election day. “The sad truth is that United Russia could have won this election on its record alone, without bending or breaking rules.” Garry Kasparov has accused Russian authorities of “raping the whole electoral system“. “Thank God the election campaign is over.” (President Putin) The US has called for an investigation into claims of vote-rigging. A joint observer team from Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe have made a statement saying that the election was “not fair”. The Partnership Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the European Union has just expired. The government has authorized the Federal Treasury to conduct foreign exchange transactions – power previously only held by the cabinet, the Central Bank of Russia, the RF Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and Foreign Intelligence Service – in the belief that a shift of interests will allow the CBR to concentrate on fighting inflation. The Kremlin and an Israeli investment fund sought to distance themselves from Oleg Shvartsman, an unknown Russian fund manager who claimed in an interview that he was a key money manager for the siloviki clan. The interview, which discussed presidential power bloc investments, will negatively affect Shvartsman’s political career and could damage his business. Head of Unified Energy Systems, Anatoly Chubais, said, “Intentionally or not, Mr. Shvartsman told the truth. It is the truth about unavoidable diseases of such type of social and political systems as ‘sovereign democracy’ […] the fact that Mr. Shvartsman’s confessions were published in Kommersant shows that everything is not lost.” LiveJournal, a blogging and social-networking site, will be sold to SUP, a Russian online media company. Severstal, Russia’s largest steelmaker, said profit rose 61% in the first nine months of the year as prices rose amid growing demand in construction and car making. According to Alfa Bank, Gazprom is “seriously undervalued”, and investors should buy into the company because, they say, it is worth $521 billion. Investors are hoping that improved visibility on the next presidential campaign, following the elections, will have a tangible impact on a currently uncertain market. Telecoms investment vehicle Altimo has resolved a long-running dispute over its stake in MegaFon, the mobile operator. Diamond miner Alrosa could be worth $10bn in an IPO. The Russian government plans to raise its Alrosa stake to 50%. Putin, “an admirer of Stalin,” has signed into law a bill on the formation of a Russian state nuclear energy corporation, to be named Rosatom. Despite his election as a member of parliament, UK prosecutors will not drop charges against Andrei Lugovoi for the radiation murder of Alexander Litvinenko. A parliamentary seat will grant him immunity from prosecution and extradition. A profile of Alexander Mamut, the “online oligarch”, can be found here. Why have relations between Russia and Qatar improved so markedly in the last three years?