Vladimir Putin secured another six years in power after a landslide victory in Russia’s presidential election this morning. Putin, who has ruled Russia for almost two decades, recorded his best election performance with 76.67 per cent of the vote but rejected the possibility of staying in power indefinitely.
The opposition said the results were rigged, reporting ballot stuffing and other cases of alleged fraud as the Kremlin pushed for a high turnout to give greater legitimacy to Putin’s historic fourth term.
Putin, who has extended his power until at least 2024 and is already Russia’s longest-serving leader since Stalin, ruled out remaining president for life.
“Listen to me. It seems to me that what you are saying is a bit funny,” he told reporters Sunday night when asked if he saw himself running for president again in 2030. “What, am I going to sit here until I am 100 years old? No.”
Putin ran against seven other candidates, but his most vocal critic Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot for legal reasons and the final outcome was never in doubt.
“I see in this (result) the confidence and hope of our people,” Putin said in an address to a crowd of supporters on a square next to the Kremlin after exit polls put him on track for a resounding victory.
Turnout was at more than 67 per cent as authorities used both the carrot and the stick to boost engagement in the polls. Selfie competitions, giveaways, food festivals and children’s entertainers were laid on at polling stations in a bid to create a festive atmosphere around the election.
Ultra-nationalist firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky took around 5.66 percent, former reality TV presenter Ksenia Sobchak was on 1.67 per cent, while veteran liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky received just over 1 percent of the vote.
Navalny — who called on his supporters to boycott the “fake” vote and sent more than 33,000 observers across the country to see how official turnout figures differed from those of monitors — said there had been “unprecedented violations”.
Navalny’s opposition movement and the non-governmental election monitor Golos reported ballot stuffing, repeat voting and Putin supporters being bussed into polling stations en masse.
But the electoral commission dismissed most concerns, saying monitors sometimes misinterpret what they see.
(With inputs from Agencies)