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Putin drops controversial election commission head

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers an address on the US and Russia's agreement to enforce ceasefire in Syria in his office near Moscow on February 22, 2016. Both the US and Russia co-chair the International Syria Support Group.  / AFP / SPUTNIK / MICHAEL KLIMENTYEV

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers an address on the US and Russia’s agreement to enforce ceasefire in Syria in his office near Moscow on February 22, 2016. Both the US and Russia co-chair the International Syria Support Group. / AFP / SPUTNIK / MICHAEL KLIMENTYEV

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday dropped the controversial chief of the country’s election commission as the country heads towards parliamentary elections later this year.

Putin failed to include Vladimir Churov — known by Russia’s marginalised opposition as “the magician” — on a list of five nominations for members of the body that oversees elections in the vast country.

“This is the choice of the head of state,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

“This is a completely normal and natural process of rotation.”

Putin instead included Russia’s rights ombudsman Ella Pamfilova — whose parliament-appointed role is monitoring rights abuses — on the list of candidates.

Peskov said Putin’s candidates represented “quite a wide” range of political opinions but refused to comment on who would take over as head of the commission.

Bearded Churov — who has headed the election commission since 2007 and whose tenure expires on March 27 — has been accused by critics of manipulating elections to ensure victories for the Kremlin.

Russia is due to hold parliamentary polls in September of this year with presidential elections to come in 2018.

Putin enjoys a popularity rating of some 74 percent, despite the country suffering a prolonged economic crisis due in part to the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine.

The Kremlin exerts tight control over Russia’s state media and last week Putin warned the FSB security agency that “foreign enemies” were seeking to disrupt the elections.



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