Russian vote skewed, OSCE says

March 5, 2012 at 11:59 AM

MOSCOW, March 5 (UPI) -- There was no real competition in the Russian presidential and the outcome was never really in doubt, European election monitors said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin secured a non-consecutive third term as president during a weekend election. Russia's state-run news agency reported that Putin secured 63.6 percent of the vote compared to 17.2 percent from his closest rival, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.

Observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Putin's challengers were able to compete without constrains, though conditions were skewed in favor of Putin. The OSCE offered a similar assessment of State Duma elections in December, where Putin's United Russia party secured a victory.

The OSCE said voting itself went by smoothly, though about 30 percent of the polling states had irregularities during the vote count.

"The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain," Tiny Kox, head of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, said in a statement. "This was not the case in Russia."

Some results were annulled after Web cameras revealed election staff had tampered with some ballot boxes.

Opposition rallies were reported in parts of Russia. Putin's opponents claimed the vote was rigged. To state-run media reported Putin has ordered an investigation into all allegations of fraud.

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