Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- A Russian vote-monitoring group said it’s been forced to vacate its offices ahead of the March 4 presidential election, in which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is seeking to return to the Kremlin.
The landlord, the Literaturnaya Gazeta publisher, required Golos to leave the premises by Feb. 15 even though the group has a valid lease until August, Olga Novosad, a spokeswoman for the watchdog, said by phone today.
“This is obviously linked to our activities,” Novosad said. “It will seriously complicate things for us.” Literaturnaya Gazeta wasn’t available to comment immediately.
Tens of thousands of people have protested in Russian cities since December parliamentary elections, with the opposition accusing Putin’s ruling United Russia party of inflating its score from 30 percent to about 50 percent. Putin, 59, needs more than half the vote to win the presidency in the first round. The prime minister, who was president from 2000 to 2008, is running for a new six-year term.
Golos, which receives funding from the U.S. government and the European Union, monitored polling in about half of Russian regions in the Dec. 4 polls. The group came under pressure before the vote, as prosecutors fined it for violations of electoral law, while its head was detained at a Moscow airport and her laptop confiscated.
Putin pledged honest elections in March when asked in December what he can offer the country as New Year’s gift, after saying he doesn’t need “any manipulation” to win. The prime minister in November said foreign powers were seeking to intervene in elections by financing civil-society groups.
--Editors: Paul Abelsky, Hellmuth Tromm
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