MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian official whose role is to act as an impartial umpire in elections said in an interview published on Monday that President Vladimir Putin is always right.
Kremlin critics have raised doubts about the impartiality of Vladimir Churov, a former
colleague of Putin’s who was last month chosen as chairman of the Central Election Commission.
In his first major newspaper interview since he started his new job, Churov told the Kommersant daily that “Churov’s Law No. 1” is that Putin is always right.
Asked by the newspaper what would happen if it turned out the Russian leader was mistaken on a certain issue, Churov said: “How can Putin be wrong?”
Churov worked alongside Putin in the 1990s in the same local administration department in St Petersburg, Russia’s second city.
The new election chief has previously said he will treat all participants in elections fairly and equally.
Churov will have a crucial role overseeing an election to the federal parliament in December and a presidential poll next March, when a replacement for Putin is to be chosen.
In Russia, the election chief is often called on to adjudicate on allegations of vote violations, including claims bureaucrats have used their power to influence the outcome of elections.
Churov replaced the independent-minded Alexander Veshnyakov at the helm of the election commission.
Analysts have interpreted the change of guard as part of a Kremlin plan to ensure a smooth transfer of power to Putin’s preferred candidate in the presidential poll.
Putin, accused by critics of rolling back democracy, enjoys strong popularity at home after presiding over seven years of stable economic growth which brought relative prosperity for millions of Russians.
Putin’s popularity and his tight grip on power leave little doubt that his preferred candidate will win. But analysts say the Kremlin wants to make the transition as smooth as possible to rule out political instability.