New Russian parliament to convene on December 24

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has decreed the newly elected State Duma, or lower house of parliament, will hold its first session on December 24, the official gazette said on Thursday.

Putin personally led the candidate list of his United Russia party in its landslide victory in the December 2 parliamentary election. The party won 315 seats in the 450-member chamber.

United Russia will hold its congress on December 17 and nominate its candidate for State Duma speaker. The nomination is expected to be approved during the first session.

Putin, due to step down next year, has said United Russia’s overwhelming victory in the polls would give him “a moral right” to influence government even after the end of his presidency.

Earlier this week Putin backed his long-time ally, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, to succeed him.

Medvedev, the 42-year-old chairman of gas giant Gazprom, said on Tuesday he wanted Putin to become prime minister under him, thus mapping out a route for Putin to retain influence after his eight-year term expires.

Putin’s party and its allies will have a total of 393 votes in the State Duma, enabling authorities to effectively push any decision through parliament.

European countries and the United States have demanded Russia investigate claims of electoral abuses in the December 2 vote, and opposition parties said the ballot was marred by cheating to favor Putin’s party.

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