Europe

Woman elected speaker of Russia's upper house

Valentina Matviyenko with Vladimir Putin
Image caption Valentina Matviyenko is a close ally of Vladimir Putin

A woman has been elected speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament, nominally one of the country's most important political posts.

Valentina Matviyenko, a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was elected to chair the Federation Council by 140 votes with none cast against.

She recently stepped down as governor of St Petersburg, Russia's second city.

The previous speaker, Sergei Mironov, was recalled in May after criticising Ms Matviyenko.

He had described St Petersburg as one of the most corrupt cities in Russia.

In order to replace him, Ms Matviyenko had to stand in a municipal election in August, which she controversially won with more than 95% of the vote.

Opposition observers claimed to have witnessed ballot-stuffing during the election.

On Wednesday, members of the Federation Council voted for Ms Matviyenko as their speaker with one abstention.

While the upper house speaker's job is portrayed as being the third or fourth most important in the country, in reality power is wielded by the executive, dominated by Mr Putin.

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