Kasparov urges Russian opposition to spoil ballots

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PARIS, Nov 21 (Reuters) Opposition leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov today called on opponents of President Vladimir Putin to spoil their ballot papers in Russia's coming parliamentary election.

Kasparov said in Paris that the ''entire process is under control from Putin's regime''.

He said votes cast for small parties failing to reach a 7 per cent threshold for representation in the lower house, the Duma, would automatically be reallocated to Putin's dominant party unless ballot papers were spoiled.

Putin, using Cold War rhetoric, accused foreign governments today of sponsoring his opponents to weaken Russia.

But Kasparov told reporters at the launch of the French translation of his book ''How Life Imitates Chess'' that he was not asking for support from the West.

''We are just asking foreign governments to stop supporting Putin. Each time they meet Putin and treat him as an equal partner they give ammunition to his propaganda against us,'' he said.

''We're not asking for drastic measures such as cutting trade with Russia.'' Putin, forbidden by the constitution to run for a third consecutive four-year term, will quit as president next year but is leading his United Russia party's list in the December 2 parliamentary elections.

He has said a strong showing by his party would give him a ''moral right'' to maintain his political influence.

''The weakness of Putin's regime is the weakness of any dictatorship -- it ends because it has nothing to offer Russian society,'' Kasparov said.

''Many crises are emerging. Failing infrastructure, a growing gap between rich and poor, an emerging bank crisis, political crises. These crises will merge together within two years maximum, leading to the fall of the regime,'' he said.

''Despite high oil prices, the regime is failing to provide decent living conditions for the majority of the population.'' The latest opinion poll puts support for United Russia at 63.8 per cent and for the Communists at 7.7 per cent, making it the only other party likely to cross the 7 per cent threshold.

Kasparov's opposition party, Other Russia, had too little public support to register for Sunday's elections but the chess grandmaster will be the party's candidate in next March's presidential ballot.

REUTERS TB BST0102

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