Russian MPs walk out in a rare show of dissent

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Russian opposition parties walked out of parliament yesterday in a rare act of protest against disputed regional elections, with the Communist Party blaming Vladimir Putin for an unworkable system of governance.

The leaders of the walkout demanded a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev and a recount of votes after independent observers said nationwide mayoral, regional and district elections on Sunday were rigged and turnout was much lower than reported.

In the vote, the United Russia party – backed by Mr Medvedev and nominally led by Prime Minister Putin – retained power in key locations, including Moscow, the most populous and affluent region.

Mr Medvedev would not talk to the opposition face to face for at least 10 days as it is "not on his schedule," Natalya Timakova, a spokesman for the President, told reporters in Moscow. Mr Medvedev has pledged to tackle corruption, and has welcomed the results of the vote.

None of the three protesting parties, the Nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, Fair Russia and the Communist Party, are usually critical of the Kremlin. "What's the point in having a legal system and laws if they only suit one party?" said Vadim Solovyov, a Communist Party deputy at the Duma.

Mr Putin, speaking in Beijing last night, said he was "pleased" with the election results. "Those who don't win are never happy," he said.