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Mum On Own Plans, Russia's Medvedev Raises Voice On Clean Elections

The Russian President singles out need for “absolutely fair” parliamentary elections amid a regional vote-rigging scandal, and questions about whether he himself will run for reelection.

Medvedev during his televised speech (RussiaToday)
Dimitry Medvedev at the World Economic Forum 2011
Tatiana Mikhailova

MOSCOW – President Dmitry Medvedev has made a pointed call for December elections to the Russian parliament, or Duma, to be "open, honest and absolutely fair."

The latest statement comes amid claims of fraud during March's regional elections in Tambov, 300 miles southeast of Moscow, where Vladimir Putin's ruling United Party won 65 percent of the vote.

It is still unknown whether Medvedev himself will run for reelection in the 2012 presidential ballot. He has been urged publicly by close advisors to announce that he will stand in the presidential vote three months after the Duma election.

Though he insists his country is on the path to democratization, his insistence this week for clean parliamentary elections is a reminder that the road may still be long.

Opposition candidate, Nikolai Vorobyev has produced a report describing widespread fraud in the March regional elections. It involved allegations that election committee members had already marked ballots with votes for United Russia candidates, and taking them to the voting booths by hired ‘ballot stuffers'.

Vorobyev's claims have been dismissed as ‘politically motivated" by the head of the Tambov Election Commission, who said most of the claims of falsification were ‘fiction." The commission added that the dossier of complaints was biased, and since no one had contested the election result in court, the outcome was legitimate.

This has also been backed by the Russian Foundation for Free elections, which says the document complaining about how the election was conducted was cobbled together from the Internet, and motivated by sour grapes.

Still, Vorobyev insists his report comes from a desire to prevent such violations in the future. He added that he was upset that the principle that has seemingly triumphed was singularly focused "not on how people vote, but who is counting the votes."

Vorobyev says he has witness statements that detail the violations, which were backed by election observers, even though this testimony was not reflected in the conclusion of the election commission.

He pointed out the violations he lists in his report are only the tip of the iceberg, but photo and video evidence, which is not always easy to get, would be required to prove his claims.

Read the original article in Russian

Photo - World Economic Forum

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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