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Cablegate: Putin Says Election Gives Duma More Legitimacy,

VZCZCXRO3318
PP RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #5704/01 3381643
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041643Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5676
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 005704

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL PHUM RS
SUBJECT: PUTIN SAYS ELECTION GIVES DUMA MORE LEGITIMACY,
OTHERS COMMENT ON FOREIGN OBSERVERS


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SUMMARY
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1. (U) One day after United Russia's decisive victory in
parliamentary elections, Putin thanked voters for supporting
United Russia and said that the elections would give the next
Duma more legitimacy. He called the election results a sign
of "trust" in United Russia and a "good indicator of Russia's
internal stability." Meantime, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs posted a statement on its website that highlighted
the positive assessments by some international observers, and
called assessments by parliamentarians of the OSCE, the
Council of Europe, and the Nordic Council, who also observed
Sunday's elections, "haphazard." Duma International Affairs
Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev and CEC Chairman
Churov also commented on foreign observers, praising the
Commonwealth of Independent States observation team and
dismissing the joint statement of the OSCE and Council of
Europe parliamentary groups. Churov said international
observers will be invited to observe the March presidential
elections, with GOR invitations specifying the number of
observers expected. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
PUTIN THANKS VOTERS; SAYS DUMA WILL BE MORE LEGITIMATE
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (U) At an appearance at an aerospace plant on the
outskirts of Moscow December 3, Putin thanked voters for
supporting United Russia, whose ticket he led, in the State
Duma elections. Calling the 64 percent of the vote United
Russia received a sign of "trust," he said the vote is a
"reflection of voters' expectations" and that he hoped
"United Russia would not fail us." He added that the vote is
a "good indicator of Russia's internal stability." Putin
said the election results increased the legitimacy of the
Duma because 91 percent of votes cast were for parties that
will be represented in the fifth Duma. In the 2003
elections, he noted, parties represented in the preceding
Duma which finished its work on November 17, had received
only 70 percent of total votes cast. (The rest had gone to
parties that had not crossed the five percent threshold.)
Putin flagged the increased representation of each of the
four parties to cross the Duma threshold as a sign that
Russia's strategy to strengthen political parties has
succeeded.

3. (U) In comments made during his December 3 morning meeting
with government ministers, Putin said the new Duma should
hold its first session before the end of December. Its first
task will be to elect its speaker. He also argued for
separating the timing of the Duma and presidential elections,
saying people are tired of political campaigns and it would
be better to ease into the presidential race, which
officially began November 30. Putin suggested the new Duma
take up this issue. Under current law, the presidential
campaign takes place directly following the State Duma
elections.

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FOREIGN MINISTRY HAS ITS SAY
----------------------------

4. (U) In a statement posted on the website of the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the positive assessments by
observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) were
highlighted and the assessments made by parliamentary
observers of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) and
Council of Europe (PACE) were treated skeptically. The MFA
took issue with the fact that OSCE PA and PACE held a press
conference to announce their assessment of the elections
before they were able to consult with all of their observers
and that their assessment was made only to the media, not to
the CEC or political parties. The MFA statement called some
of the OSCE PA and PACE assessments "haphazard." The
statement went on to say that the "State Duma elections
showed that Russian leadership's present policy is supported
by the majority of the Russian population." The statement
questioned the motivations of those observers who found fault
with Russian law, which established a seven percent threshold
for parties to enter the Duma, and criticized Russian
officials for "merging state and political parties." The MFA
statement noted the threshold is not outside electoral norms
and in many western countries, "a government is formed by the
majority political party."

5. (U) Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman
Kosachev called international criticism of the elections "an

MOSCOW 00005704 002 OF 002


instrument of political pressure on Russia." In a commentary
in Rossiiskaya Gazeta he said the major result of the
elections was that they "confirmed absolute majority support
of the course taken over the last several years." Kosachev
contended that there were no "facts" of violations during the
elections. "As there are no facts, this wave will end soon,"
he wrote.

------------------------------------
CEC CHUROV STAGES POST-ELECTION SHOW
------------------------------------

6. (U) At a December 4 press conference, Central Election
Commission Chairman Churov provided the following unofficial
results with 99.8 percent of votes counted from the December
2 Duma elections:

United Russia -- 44,500,000 (64.24%) 315 seats
Communist Party (KPRF) -- 8,000,000 (11.81%) 57 seats
Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) -- 5,643,000 (8.15%) 40 seats
Just Russia -- 5,367,000 (7.75%) 38 seats

He noted that United Russia, KPRF and LDPR each will have
more seats than they had in the previous Duma. He said that
official results will be announced as early as December 7.
Churov attributed the results in Chechnya, where turnout was
more than 99 percent, to a "heroic" electoral commission.

7. (SBU) Churov mocked the joint statement on December 3 by
OSCE PA and PACE observers and touted aspects of the
elections that observers from fellow CIS countries plan to
emulate, such as having polling stations at airports and
train stations.

8. (SBU) Churov decried the fact that no one "signed" the
OSCE PA and PACE statement (NOTE: OSCE PA and PACE officials
said their observers, along with Nordic Council observers,
unanimously agreed with the statement released to the press
December 3.) He took issue with the OSCE PA's and PACE's
contention that the election took place in an "atmosphere
which seriously limited political competition," guffawing
over the use of the word "atmosphere." "What is meant by
atmosphere?" Churov asked. "Do they mean the air in Moscow
and St. Petersburg?" In response to a claim made by
opposition candidate Boris Nemtsov that in one instance a
thousand absentee ballots were stuffed into a ballot box,
Churov enlisted the help of one of his aides to demonstrate
the near impossibility of stuffing one thousand ballots into
a ballot box with a narrow slit on top. When this obviously
strong aide was unable to do so, Churov then asked him to
insert the ballots one at a time, presumably to show the
length of time it would take to insert a thousand ballots.
While Churov railed against the OSCE/PACE/Nordic Council
observer missions, the aide meticulously folded groups of
ballots and slipped them into the ballot box. The task took
about 15 minutes.

9. (U) Churov said the presidential elections will be run
"even better." He said they would increase turnout by
providing more information to voters and ensuring that more
disabled persons can vote. International observers would be
invited, he said, and added that the CEC will do things like
they did for the Duma elections and invitations will include
"the number of observers we'll expect."

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COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) The GOR has launched a full court press in
response to international criticism of the Duma elections.
By picking and choosing from post-election assessments, the
GOR is touting the positive comments (technical improvements)
while hitting back against the negative (the elections were
not fair and did not meet international norms). Its latest
talking point -- that the Duma will be more "legitimate" --
is part of an effort to show that whatever problems there may
have been on December 2, the elections resulted in a stronger
institution. Churov's comments confirm expectations that the
GOR will set numerical limits on international observers to
the March presidential campaign.
BURNS

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