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By Gleb Bryanski
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev told leaders of three opposition parties on Saturday he was open to ideas on how to change election laws that they say favour the pro-Kremlin party.
The Nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), Fair Russia and the Communist Party walked out of parliament this week in a rare act of protest against disputed regional elections, which independent observers say were rigged.
Russia's ruling party, United Russia, chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, crushed opposition parties in the elections held across much of Russia, including Moscow.
The opposition parties want a rerun of the vote, an abolition of the early voting system, which the opposition says is prone to fraud, and the resignation of the central Election Commission's Chairman Vladimir Churov.
"I am ready to listen to these ideas ... Today we have a party list voting system, we can talk about it. I am open for dialogue," Medvedev said, adding he did not want the election debate to turn into "a funeral of democracy."
Kremlin political chief Vladislav Surkov, the architect of Russia's political and electoral system, which he refers to as "sovereign democracy," took part in Medvedev's meeting.
The election outcome and the scale of alleged fraud appear to have stunned even some parts of political establishment and was a reminder of the Soviet-era elections where only one party participated and voters had a choice of only one candidate.
Political scientists say the opposition parties, which do not pose a serious threat to the Kremlin, fear that they may lose their State Duma representation in the next election in 2011 if they do not take action now.
The Kremlin abolished direct elections of regional governors in 2004 as part of power centralisation under President Vladimir Putin, and switched to a system where it picks a candidate and puts them forward for a vote in the local parliament.
The Kremlin also set a 7 percent barrier for political parties contesting any election, a move which effectively barred smaller liberal pro-Western parties, supported by Russia's still relatively small middle class.
Medvedev said last year he was prepared to alter electoral law to allow some representation for parties that did not make it through the 7 percent barrier.
In his article entitled "Russia, forward" Medvedev projected a vision of a political system where different political parties replace each other at power and form the government, but in reality United Russia dominates political life.
Only three opposition deputies made it into the 35-seat Moscow City parliament after the October 11 vote. Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of the small pro-Western Yabloko party, complained that even his own vote for his party was lost during the count.
(Writing by Gleb Bryanski)

Reuters