Putin ally presides Duma as protests continue

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Putin ally presides Duma as protests continue

Putin ally presides Duma as protests continue
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A close ally of Vladimir Putin has been elected speaker of Russia’s State Duma, at its first sitting since a parliamentary poll critics say was rigged.

Sergei Naryshkin vowed to encourage more debate and compromise in the lower house. His predecessor Boris Gryzlov, also from Putin’s party, had said parliament was no place for discussion. He quit amid post-election protests.

While the ruling United Russia party remains dominant, opposition groups like the Communists look set a play a more active part in proceedings.

“The mood in the world and in Russia is moving to the left and this will be reflected in the daily work of the Duma,” said Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.

If a reminder was needed that things have changed, protesters gathered outside the chamber.

Several dozen were arrested, witnesses said.

But the mood remains defiant with another day of rallies planned on Saturday.

Freed after over two weeks in jail, anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny urged Russians to unite against Prime Minister Putin as he prepares a return to the Kremlin.

“The party of swindlers and thieves is putting forward its chief swindler and its chief thief for the presidency. We must vote against him, fight against him,” he said.

Navalny was charged with obstructing the course of justice at a major post-election rally in Moscow.