(Updates with Putin comments starting in fifth paragraph.)
Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he doesn’t need “any manipulation” in March presidential elections as he maintained his refusal to review this month’s disputed parliamentary ballot.
“I want to rely on the will of the people, popular backing,” Putin said at a meeting with his All-Russia People’s Front in Moscow today. “Otherwise it doesn’t make sense.”
At least 30,000 people rallied last weekend in Moscow against alleged election fraud in the Dec. 4 poll as the largest protests against Putin in his 12 years in power gathered pace. The premier’s opponents are demanding that the parliamentary elections be held again and the March presidential poll delayed to ensure it is held under democratic rules. A leading opposition figure and blogger, Alexei Navalny, said yesterday he’d run for president if the elections are free and fair.
“There can be no discussion of reviewing” the election results, Putin said, adding that people who disagreed with them can appeal to the courts.
Putin’s former finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, who addressed the Dec. 24 protest rally, and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who is running in the presidential election, have both backed the demand for a repeat vote.
Transparent Ballot Boxes
The prime minister endorsed a suggestion by Prokhorov to use transparent ballot boxes to reduce the possibility for fraud in the March 4 election. Putin has already ordered authorities to install web cameras in every polling station.
President Dmitry Medvedev, 46, who agreed in September to step down and allow Putin’s comeback, announced measures to loosen political controls in his state-of-the-nation speech on Dec. 22, promising to make it easier to register parties and run for president. The changes won’t take full effect until the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2016 and 2018.
Putin, 59, served two terms as president before stepping down in 2008 after completing the constitutional maximum two consecutive terms.
The ruling United Russia party won just over half of seats in the Dec. 4 vote, losing the two-thirds parliamentary majority that allowed it to alter the constitution unilaterally. International observers said the elections were marred by ballot-box stuffing.
Navalny, 35, who shot to prominence this year after winning a following for his campaign against corruption at state companies, was the preferred presidential candidate for 22 percent of 791 people surveyed at the Dec. 24 protest in Moscow, a survey showed. The opinion poll by the Levada Center had a margin of error of 4.8 percentage points.
“We will hold fair elections and we will take the Kremlin and White House in the sense that people will sit there who have been elected,” Navalny said. “Maybe Putin will sit there and United Russia will sit in parliament, but only through honest elections.” The White House is the Russian seat of government.
--Editors: Paul Abelsky, James Hertling
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