Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, has said that Russians have a right to protest, as long as it is within the law.

In his annual televised call-in question-and-answer session on Thursday, Putin deflected opposition allegations that
fraud helped his ruling party win the parliamentary election, saying the result reflected the views of the population.

Putin vehemently rejected opposition calls for a rerun of the vote, accusing those who organised protests of working to weaken Russia at the West's behest. 

He reacted to the mass post-election protests by saying, "I saw on television mostly young, active people clearly expressing their positions. I am pleased to see this."

"The fact that people are expressing their point of view about the processes occurring in the country, in the economy, in the social sphere, in politics, is an absolutely normal thing, as long as people continue acting within the law", said Putin.

Tens of thousands of people protested on Saturday in Moscow in a sanctioned protest that was Russia's biggest show of popular discontent since the turbulent 1990s.

"Putin addressed the demonstration but his comments show he takes a cynical view towards the protests. "

- Neave Barker, Al Jazeera

Putin's ruling United Russia party won the parliamentary elections but with  less than half the vote, a result the opposition said would have been even worse in free polls.

"In my opinion, the result of these elections unquestionably reflects the real political make-up of the country," said Putin.

"The fact that United Russia retained its leading position is a very good outcome," he added.

'Cynical view'

Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, reporting from Moscow, said: "Putin said the protests are the way forward, but he criticised the opposition, saying coloured revolutions are a way of destabilising countries."

"Putin addressed the demonstration but his comments show he takes a cynical view towards the protests," said our correspondent.

In an apparent bid to deflect the claims of fraud, Putin said he would order the installation of web cameras in every Russian polling station during the presidential elections in March next year.

"I ask the central election commission to install web cameras in all 90,000 polling stations in the country and put the footage on the internet so the whole country can see," he said.

Putin, who served two terms as president from 2000 to 2008, was obliged under the Russian constitution to step aside after his second term but is now entitled to stand again.

Thursday is the deadline for would-be presidential candidates to declare their bid.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies