Sunday, 18 December 2011

Putin may face 'vote fraud' questions at annual Q&A

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds his annual Q&A session with the nation on Thursday amid public anger over alleged vote fraud on behalf of his United Russia party.

The Q&A session will begin at noon Moscow time (8:00 am GMT) and will be broadcast live on state television and radio stations.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has said that the prime minister will answer "real questions from real people" during the live session.

Peskov also said public figures who have “their own civil stance and opinion, which may not always coincide with that of the government,” will be present at the Q&A session.

Last weekend saw the largest anti-government protests in Russia for almost two decades, as thousands marched to demand new parliamentary polls. Putin has said the protests were encouraged by the United States, in particular U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A new mass rally is due to take place in Moscow on Dec. 24.

Both Russian and international observers reported numerous violations during the Dec. 4 polls, including ballot-staffing and other fraud cases. United Russia was declared to have won the elections with almost half of the vote.

President Dmitry Medvedev has pledged that allegations of electoral fraud will be investigated.

This will be Putin’s tenth live Q&A session since 2001, when he first answered questions on air. Last year, it took the premier a record 4.5 hours to answer a total of 90 questions, 31 of which he selected himself.

Russians have been invited to submit their questions for the session via the internet and text messages. Phone calls will also be taken during the broadcast.

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