Court Rejects Bid To Annul Elections

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a request by the Communist Party to have the results of the State Duma elections annulled on the grounds of what the party described as massive electoral violations.

Judge Nikolai Tolcheyev issued a short ruling to wrap up the two-day hearing, saying only that the court had decided to dismiss the complaint and that the full ruling would be issued in writing in the coming days.

The Communists presented 12,000 documents as evidence of electoral fraud in the Dec. 2 elections, in which they captured 11.6 percent of the vote, far behind the 64 percent garnered by pro-Kremlin party United Russia, which now has a constitutional majority in the Duma.

Among other purported violations, the Communists claimed that they had proof 200,000 votes were stolen from them in favor of United Russia.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who was not present in court Wednesday, said he was not surprised by the ruling.

"We've had no doubt that the Supreme Court would not have enough will to admit the falsification of the parliamentary elections in favor of the party of power," Zyuganov said, Interfax reported.

Vadim Solovyov, a lawyer for the Communists, said the party would appeal the ruling and would take its case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg should the appeal be rejected.

"The court was polite but not objective, and it did not examine the evidence presented [by us]," Solovyov told reporters in the courtroom after the hearing.

The party also accused United Russia of cheating voters by having more than 100 prominent candidates on its lists who subsequently did not take up their Duma seats, including then-President Vladimir Putin, who headed the United Russia ticket.

The Supreme Court earlier this month rejected a similar appeal by the liberal party Union of Right Forces, or SPS, which fell considerably short of the 7 percent needed to win Duma seats, capturing just 0.96 of the vote.

SPS complained to the court that authorities had seized millions of copies of its campaign booklets, ostensibly to "inspect" the content but really, the party argued, to hamper its campaign.

SPS leader Nikita Belykh has also accused Central Elections Commission chief Vladimir Churov of providing false information to the European Court of Human Rights about the number of campaign booklets seized from the party.

Belykh is appealing to the Strasburg court, which has yet to decide on similar complaints filed by fellow liberal party Yabloko and the Communists following the 2003 Duma elections.

The Communists have also announced that they will press for changes in election laws, including a measure forcing candidates to participate in election campaigns.

Opposition parties have heavily criticized President Dmitry Medvedev for not campaigning at all in the run-up to the March 2 presidential election. Medvedev, then first deputy prime minister, explained at the time that he was two busy with his job to campaign.