Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said in his blog that the government must open a dialogue with the opposition on holding a repeat ballot under a revised electoral law. The statement appears aimed at stealing the opposition’s thunder to prevent a challenge to Putin’s bid to reclaim the presidency in March elections.
Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in Moscow to demand a rerun of the Dec. 4 parliamentary vote and urge an end to Putin’s 12-year rule. It has been the largest outpouring of public anger since the Soviet collapse two decades ago.
While Putin faces no serious rivals in the presidential vote, the protests signaled a sharp drop in his popularity that would make it hard for him to garner more than 50 percent of ballots to avoid a runoff. Any evidence of fraud in the vote could also fuel outrage that would make it hard for Putin to retain power.