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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 15:28 GMT
Russia Duma election must stand
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Moscow

Polling station in St Petersburg
United Russia emerged well ahead of other parties
Russia's Supreme Court has turned down an opposition appeal to invalidate the results of last year's elections to the lower house of parliament, the Duma.

Opposition politicians claimed the party that now dominates the Duma had unfair access to state resources.

They alleged serious bias in state-run media and said Russia's electoral commission fixed the count to reduce opposition in parliament to a minimum.

The court dismissed the case after weighing the evidence for over a month.

This case was brought by a rare alliance of communists and liberals, united by their opposition to the party of power.

The once-mighty communists lost dozens of seats in the election. Russia's main liberal parties were voted out of parliament altogether.

They both cried foul.

Appeal pledge

The case they put to Russia's highest court claimed that state television gave glowing, blanket coverage to United Russia - the party backed by President Vladimir Putin.

It also alleged the vote was rigged, saying a parallel-ballot count proved that both liberal parties did win the minimum 5% support.

A spokesman for the central electoral authorities called the claim pure political PR.

And now the court has ruled it groundless.

That decision, though, is at odds with the observations of many foreign election observers, who issued stinging criticism of the elections at the time.

They warned Russia was "rolling back democracy".

The politicians who brought the case say this result was predictable, but they claim theirs was a vital act of protest nonetheless.

They have vowed to appeal against the verdict, and say that if necessary they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

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