Putin warns Russia’s opposition ahead of election

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accused the Russian opposition of preparing dirty tricks to discredit this weekend’s presidential poll, saying they would have to respect the view of the majority in the vote.

Putin attacked Russia’s nascent protest movement with characteristic venom in a display of confidence ahead of Sunday’s poll which he is expected to win to claim a third term in the Kremlin after his stint as premier.

He alleged that activists were planning to stuff ballots themselves in a deliberate ploy to delegitimise the vote. Allegations of vote-rigging sparked mass protests against his rule after December 4 parliamentary election.

“The main rule is to respect the view of the minority, but to submit to the opinion of the majority,” Putin said at a meeting with supporters in Moscow.

“People who talk about the need to strengthen democratic institutions must themselves obey these rules. The minority must not impose its will on the majority,” he said.

Opinion polls have predicted that Putin should win in the first round with up to 60 percent of the vote but the opposition has complained that the election has been skewed in his favour from the start.

Putin expressed fury at the opposition for declaring the election “illegitimate in advance” and said the authorities had proof that dirty tricks were being prepared.

“They are getting ready to use some kind of mechanisms which would confirm that the elections have been falsified. They will stuff ballots themselves, monitor this and then report on it,” he said.

“These instruments are unacceptable and harmful to democratic society. We have grounds to believe that our opponents are preparing such actions. We can present the proof.”

His comments also appeared to be an icy warning to independent vote monitors who alleged mass rigging in December’s legislative elections and who Putin accused at the time of being agents in the pay of the West.

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