Even as Vladimir Putin hailed his party's decisive victory in Russian elections yesterday as a mandate, international elections observers said the polling was neither free nor fair, and complained of government interference. State employees were reportedly ordered to vote for Putin, CNN reports, and Garry Kasparov’s Other Russia party was left off the ballot entirely. “We cannot say there were fair elections,” said one observer.
“More or less, Russia now has moved to a soft version of one-party dictatorship,” Kasparov said. US and UK officials called for an investigation, with the US complaining that intimidation and media control had swayed the election. But a Kremlin spokesman said elections were fair, offering as proof the three- or four-party parliament that resulted.