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December 06, 2011 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-12-06

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-T- -

6 - Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thousands protest against
Putin over election results

I

A barber cuts the 327-days-old beard of Radio personality Koen Fillet in Brussels yesterday. Fillet grew a protest beard
that was grown for almost a year to highlight the length of negotiation.
New Belgian government to
take offc after 541 days

Elio Di Rupo first
French-speaking
prime minister in
almost 40 years
BRUSSELS (AP) - King
Albert II named Elio Di Rupo
as the first French-speaking
prime minister in nearly 40
years late yesterday in one of
the final steps before his team
formally ends the record 541
days the country has gone
without a government.
The swearing-in today will
be a long-awaited relief to the
entire nation of 6.5 million
Dutch speakers and 4.5 million
French speakers who long ago
grew frustrated with the dead-
lock between politicians over
linguistic differences.

One radio presenter finally
shaved off the beard he has
grown for almost a year to
protest the drawn-out coali-
tion negotiations, an unofficial
world record.
"0 won't do it again, never
again," Koen Fillet said after
he was soaped, shaved and
splashed with after-shave in a
show webcast live.
A royal statement late yes-
terday said "the King received
Elio Di Rupo at Belvedere cas-
tle and named him prime min-
ister."
The 60-year-old son of Ital-
ian immigrants thus com-
pleted a remarkable journey
from childhood poverty to
become the Belgium leader.
He will lead a grand coalition
of Socialists, Christian Demo-
crats and Liberals, each split in
Dutch- and French-speaking

parties.
Among his leading minis-
ters, outgoing finance minis-
ter Francophone liberal Didier
Reynders became foreign min-
ister and Dutch-speaking
Christian Democrat Steven
Vanackere made the reverse
move.
Dutch-speaking socialist
Johan Vande Lanotte - experi-
enced in finance and budgetary
issues - was named economics
minister.
The final stretch to name the
ministers was drawn-out, in
keeping with entire process: An
all-night negotiating session
to decide which party would
claim what post ended yester-
day afternoon.
From now on, the govern-
ment has a lot of catching up to
do, especially when it comes to
the economy.

Protesters allege
election was rigged,
chant 'Russia
without Putin'
MOSCOW (AP) - Several thou-
sand people protested last night
against Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin and his party, which won
the largest share of a parliamen-
tary election that observers said
was rigged.
It was perhaps the largestoppo-
sition rally in years and ended with
police detainingsome of the activ-
ists. A group of several hundred
marched toward the Central Elec-
tions Commission near the Krem-
lin, but were stopped by riot police
and taken away in buses. The total
number of those detained was not
immediately available.
Estimates of the number of pro-
testers at the rally ranged from
5,000 to 10,000. They chanted
"Russia without Putin" and
accused his United Russia party of
stealing votes.
United Russia took about 50
percent of Sunday's vote, a result
that opposition politicians and
election monitors said was inflat-
ed because of ballot stuffing and
other vote fraud. It was a signifi-
cant drop from the last election,
when the party took 64 percent.
Pragmatically, the loss of seats
in parliament appears to mean
little; two of the three other par-
ties winning seats have been reli-
able supporters of government
legislation. But, it is a substantial
symbolic blow to a party that had
become virtually indistinguish-
able from the state itself.
It has also energized the oppo-

sition and poses a humbling chal-
lenge to the country's dominant
figure in his drive to return to the
presidency. Putin, who became
prime minister in 2008 because
of presidential term limits, will
run for a third term in March
and some opposition leaders saw
the parliamentary election as a
game-changer for what had been
presumed to be Putin's easy stroll
back to the Kremlin.
Also yesterday, more than 400
Communist supporters gathered
to express their indignation over
the election, which some called
the dirtiest in modern Russian
history. The Communist Party
finished second with about20 per-
cent of the vote.
"Even compared to the 2007
elections, violations by the author-
ities and the government bodies
that actually control the work of
all election organizations at all
levels, from local to central, were
so obvious and so brazen," said
Yevgeny Dorovin, a member of the
party's central committee.
Putin appeared subdued and
glum even as he insisted at a Cabi-
net meeting yesterday that the
result "gives United Russia the
possibility to work calmly and
smoothly."
Although the sharp decline for
United Russia could lead Putin
and the party to try to portray the
election as genuinely democratic,
the wide reports of violations
have undermined that attempt at
spin.
Boris Nemtsov, a prominent fig-
ure among Russia's beleaguered
liberal opposition, declared that
the vote spelled the end of Putin's
"honeymoon" with the nation and
predicted that his rule will soon
"collapse likea house of cards."

"He needs to hold an honest
presidential election and allow
opposition candidates to register
for the race, if he doesn't want
to be booed from Kamchatka to
Kaliningrad," Nemtsov said on
Ekho Moskvy radio.
Many Russians came to despise
United Russia, seeing it as the
engine of endemic corruption.
The election showed voters that
they have power despite what
election monitors called a dishon-
est count.
"Yesterday, it was proven by
these voters that not everything
was fixed, that the result really
matters," said Tiny Kox of the
Council of Europe's Parliamen-
tary Assembly, part of an interna-
tional election observer mission.
Other analysts suggested the
vote was a wake-up call to Putin
that he had lost touch with the
country. In the early period of his
presidency, Putin's appeal came
largely from his man-of-the-peo-
ple image: candid, decisive and
without ostentatious tastes.
But, he seemed to lose some
of the common touch, appearing
in well-staged but increasingly
preposterous heroic photo oppor-
tunities - hunting a whale with
a crossbow, fishing while bare-
chested, and purportedly dis-
covering ancient Greek artifacts
while scuba-diving. And Russians
grew angry at his apparent disre-
gard - and even encouragement
- of the country's corruption and
massive income gap.
"People want Putin to go back
to what he was in his first term
- decisive, dynamic, tough on oli-
garchs and sensitive to the agenda
formed by society," said Sergei
Markov, a prominent United Rus-
sia Duma member.

6

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RELEASE DATE- Tuesday, December 6, 2011
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Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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One-naned oo70n7
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"Leave (Get Out)" (c)2011 Tribune Media Services,Inc. 2//1

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