Russian have to choose president: no voting "against all"

New legislation – ban on voting “against all” – gets support in parliament. Vladimir Pligin of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, head of parliament's constitutional legislation committee, said that at least 30 local elections had been declared invalid after the option to vote "against all" candidates received the most votes.

But critics condemned the proposed law as an attack on voting freedoms and a bid to strengthen the ruling party's dominance. "Our party considers the bill as another attack of the party of power on the democratic process of elections," said Communist lawmaker Valentin Kuptsov.

In an article published in the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Thursday, independent liberal legislator Vladimir Ryzhkov tied the possible elimination of the "against all" option to a broader tendency on the part of the Kremlin.

"It is reasonable to assume that the drive to eliminate the line 'against all' ... is geared toward robbing voters of the possibility to protest against the 'filtration' of candidates and party lists," Ryzhkov wrote, referring to the overwhelming domination of the pro-Putin United Russia party and its allies.

Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst for the Moscow Carnegie Center, suggested the Kremlin was pursuing two goals making sure that a Kremlin-backed candidate does not lose to the "against all" option and doing away with public frustration. The measure comes as the Kremlin and Russians are increasingly looking to the 2008 presidential election, in which Putin is expected to groom a preferred successor, reports the AP.

N.U.