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It’s time for Putin to go, says Gorbachev as he calls for fresh elections

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has rebuked the Russian government for taking the country back towards communism and said that Putin should quit and fresh elections brought in.

He was speaking ahead of the 20th anniversary of a hard-line coup in 1991 that briefly ousted him and precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The scathing attack came as Putin and Medvedev met this week for a fishing trip on the Volga River, taking time to adopt trademark tough-guy poses for the cameras.

Russia’s two top leaders are believed to be close to a decision on which of them will run for president, and the fishing trip on the Volga River formed part of a rare day-long private meeting.

The pair also went for a walk on the river bank in the Astrakhan region in southern Russia and went on a boat trip to take underwater pictures.

The meeting on the Volga was not announced in advance. Putin arrived from Moscow, where he was meeting his Belarussian counterpart on Monday, while Medvedev flew in from the Black Sea resort of Sochi where he is spending his summer holiday.

Gill seekers: Putin surely has bigger fish to fry, left, while Medvedev, right, also took time out to dress in a camouflaged wetsuit and take underwater pictures

One picture posted on the Kremlin website showed Medvedev posing in a wetsuit with an underwater camera, another holding a half-metre long pike fish with Putin in the background and a third in which he was steering a motorboat.

Putin, a keen fisherman who himself donned a wetsuit last week to dive at an underwater archaeological in the Black Sea, was captured struggling to take a much smaller fish off the hook.

Both Medvedev and Putin have hinted that one of them, but not both, will run in the March 2012 presidential election and are expected to make a decision soon.

However, Gorbachev thinks it’s time for Putin to step down. ‘I’m unhappy,’ he said.

He said Russia needs to restore direct elections of governors and of individual seats in parliament, which were abolished during Putin’s presidency.

‘Honest elections are needed: single-ballot elections, elections of governors,’ Gorbachev said. ‘People must have a feeling that something depends on them.’

He dismissed the Popular Front, an umbrella group of public organizations, professional associations and unions created with Putin’s blessing.

‘They invent some unnecessary groups, some fronts,’ Gorbachev said, adding that government spin doctors might just as well invent something like ’10 Putin Strikes’ – a sardonic reference to ’10 Stalin Strikes,’ a term used by Soviet propaganda to describe the Red Army’s offensives during World War II.

The front’s creation has been seen as an attempt by Putin to strengthen his support base ahead of parliamentary elections in December and a presidential vote in March.

Putin, who shifted into the prime minister’s job in 2008 because of a two-term constitutional limit, is widely expected to reclaim the presidency.

Later in the week he dropped in on the country’s biggest airshow, where he promised continued support for Russia’s aviation industry after overseeing more than $1billion (£600million) worth of deals.

Putin watched the first public flight of the fifth-generation T-50 fighter at the MAKS airshow outside Moscow, as well as flights of mid-size regional plane Sukhoi Superjet.

‘The state has supported and will support Russia’s aerospace industry. It is a strategic priority for us,’ Putin told officials and industry executives in a speech, stressing that the government invested $9.5billion in the industry in 2009-11.

Russia is pinning its hopes on the Superjet, a plane designed to compete with Embraer and Bombardier  and T-50 fighter, which will rival the F-22 ‘Raptor’ made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Another Russian-made passenger aircraft, the MS-21, is due to be ready for delivery in 2017 and is intended to replace the country’s ageing TU-154 planes.

Putin’s government aims to diversify Russia’s economy away from energy, which represents about half of budget revenues, and is keen to develop technology-heavy sectors such as aerospace and the auto industry.

Putin is also keen to show the success of his government in replicating Soviet-era achievements in technology and defence ahead of a presidential election in March 2012 in which he says he may take part.

Election Canada proposes online voting for 2013

Going to the polls might just mean booting up your computer during the next federal byelection, Elections Canada says.

Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, says he will be seeking approval to test internet voting in a federal byelection held in 2013. Continue reading

Brazil’s president may not run again in 2014

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has not yet decided whether she or her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, will be her party’s candidate in the next election in 2014, a leading minister said in an interview published on Wednesday. Continue reading

Argentine president vows growth after vote

BUENOS AIRES – President Cristina Fernandez said yesterday that keeping Argentina’s economy growing despite the global consumption slowdown is her top priority as she looks forward to what seems like a certain reelection in October.

Fernandez received just more than 50 percent of the valid votes in Sunday’s primary, leading her nearest challengers by more than 37 percentage points. Continue reading

83 Candidates to Run for Kyrgyzstan Presidential Election

Kyrgyzstan’s Central Election Commission says 83 people have registered to run in the country’s presidential election at the end of October.

The commission said Tuesday that 16 candidates received nominations from political parties and 67 are running as independents.

The candidates are now required to collect at least 30,000 signatures, submit an electoral deposit of more than $2,000, and pass a Kyrgyz language test by September 25 in order to be considered as a presidential contender. Continue reading

Turnout in Ireland general election estimated at 70%

The polls have closed in the Republic of Ireland’s general election.

Turnout is believed to be close to 70%. There are 566 candidates contesting 165 seats in the Irish parliament.

The ballot was called a few months after the ruling coalition negotiated an 85bn-euro (£72bn) EU/IMF loan package. Divisions had emerged in the ruling coalition between Fianna Fail and the Green Party.

The first results are expected early on Saturday afternoon. Continue reading