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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Calls for Order in Elections

President Vladimir Putin lambasted law enforcers Wednesday for their performance in 2002 and said their priorities this election year will be to provide law and order and to tackle drugs, terrorism and violent crime.

Putin appears to want to make sure his popularity ratings remain high as he prepares to mount a bid for re-election, political analysts said.

"There will be a train of elections," Putin said in a speech to law enforcers, judges and high-ranking officials at the Prosecutor General's Office.

"Past experience shows that legal violations related to elections thrive during such a time," he said.

State Duma elections are scheduled for December and will be followed by a presidential election in March. Several plebiscites are scheduled to be held across the country, including a sensitive constitutional referendum in Chechnya on March 23.

Putin told law enforcers their task is to ensure that all of the elections are fair and democratic.

Putin also said he was far from satisfied with the police's work last year. Although the number of registered crimes fell by 15 percent from 2001, the figure accounted for only 60 percent of all crime, Putin said. Police registered 2.5 million crimes last year.

"An analysis of last year's situation gives us no reason for any optimistic conclusions in law enforcement," Putin said.

He said more than 1.8 million people were victims of violent crime last year and called for the police to take steps to curb such crime.

Efforts to fight terrorism and the soaring drug problem were "not effective enough," he added.

The president said the fight against crime will get a boost with the reshuffle of security posts that he announced a day earlier. Putin said the shake-up -- which saw the border guards and

government communications agency FAPSI merged with the Federal Security Service and his ally Viktor Cherkesov appointed head of a new federal anti-drug agency -- will help law enforcers coordinate their efforts and eliminate overlapping duties.

Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov told the meeting that law enforcers need to put more effort into rooting out corruption, saying only small-time offenders such as traffic police officers are being prosecuted. In the meantime, bureaucrats managed to pocket $16 billion in bribes last year, he said. Corrupt officials cost the economy $20 billion in investment, he added.

Alexei Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies, said Putin's call for order during elections was a veiled warning to law enforcers to behave themselves and not endanger his own chances of being re-elected president.

"Putin needs calm elections this year," he said. "He doesn't want to irritate voters ahead of the presidential election, and this is why he is demanding that security officials behave neutrally at the ballot boxes for the time being."

Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center, said Putin was attempting to distance himself from unresolved national problems that might tarnish his image.

"By drawing attention to sore points like drugs, terrorism and corruption and criticizing law enforcement for their failings, Putin is distancing himself from the troublemakers," he said. "Creating such a distance is one of Putin's greatest political assets: While the public's attitude toward the police remains miserable, Putin's image is shining."

Blaming law enforcement for corruption has become a favorite battle cry for politicians, but any anti-corruption drive will fail as long as favoritism remains between business and the state, said Leonid Kosals, a corruption expert at the Russian Academy of Science.

"As long as there isn't a normal market economy and fair opportunities for career advancement, the point of anti-corruption campaigns is to clear the field to promote the rulers' minions," he said.