Mikhail Gorbachev calls Russian political system a mockery of democracy

      Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev has delivered a damning indictment of the state of Russia's political system, describing the recent elections as a stage-managed "mockery" of voters. In his most outspoken comments since he resigned in 1991, Gorbachev fiercely criticised the ruling United Russia party led by Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, and said that genuine political debate was now confined to Russia's tiny liberal press. "In the eyes of everybody, elections have been turned into a mockery of people and a symbol of disrespect for their choices," The Telegraph quoted him, as saying. "The electoral system has been maimed," he said in an interview with the Novaya Gazeta, a liberal newspaper he partly owns. Kremlin-backed electoral officials rushed to insist the vote was largely fair. But in an odd twist, three mainstream opposition parties who have been traditionally happy to play by the Kremlin's rules, rebelled and walked out of the Duma, the national lower house of parliament. Gorbachev, 78, said the unusual walkout showed that even United Russia had gone too far this time. "If such disciplined and cautious people who are so close to power decided to undertake such a demarche, it means that faith in the political institution of elections is definitively lost," he said. The comments are a watershed for Gorbachev who has busied himself with think tanks, speeches and measured newspaper commentaries since his dramatic fall from grace. These latest comments suggest that he believes the entire political system is rotten and needs reforming.

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