POLITICS

Russia election: Vladimir Putin wins by big margin

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Written by Ashley Jackson

Vladimir Putin will lead Russia for another six years, after securing an expected victory in the presidential election.

With 50% of the vote counted he had 75% of the vote, the central election commission said.

The main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race.

Addressing a rally in Moscow after the early results were declared, Mr Putin said voters had “recognised the achievements of the last few years”.

The scale of victory – which had been widely predicted – appears to be a marked increase in his share of the vote from 2012, when he won 64%.

A state exit poll put the turnout at 63.7%, down on 2012. Mr Putin’s campaign had hoped for a large turnout, to give him the strongest possible mandate.

His campaign team said it was an “incredible victory”.

“The percentage that we have just seen speaks for itself. It’s a mandate which Putin needs for future decisions, and he has a lot of them to make,” a spokesman told Russia’s Interfax.

In some areas, free food and discounts in local shops were on offer near polling stations.

Exit polls, published as soon as voting ended, showed that Mr Putin’s closest opponent, Pavel Grudinin, was only projected to win 11.2%.

Mr Grudinin is a millionaire communist, but the race also included a former reality television host, Ksenia Sobchak, and veteran nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Mr Navalny was excluded from the election because of an embezzlement conviction that he said was manufactured by the Kremlin.

In his first reaction to the news, Mr Navalny indicated he had been unable to contain his anger.

“Now is the season of Lent. I took it upon myself never to get angry and not to raise my voice. Oh well, I’ll try again next year,” he tweeted.

During polling day, independent election monitoring group Golos reported hundreds of irregularities, including:

  • Voting papers found in some ballot boxes before polls opened
  • Observers were barred from entering some polling stations
  • Some people were bussed in amid suspicion of forced voting
  • Webcams at polling stations were obstructed by balloons and other obstacles

In Dagestan, one election official said he was prevented from doing his job by a crowd of men who blocked the ballot box.

But Ella Pamfilova, head of the Central Electoral Commission, said no serious violations had been registered yet.

“We have analysed and monitored everything we could, everything that has arrived. Thank goodness, it’s all rather modest so far,” she told a commission meeting while speaking about violations.

She had earlier said that anyone involved in violations would be caught.

Sunday’s vote was also the first in Crimea since Russia seized the region from Ukraine. Mr Putin was scheduled to speak at a rally scheduled for the fourth anniversary of the annexation – the same day as the election.

The annexation was bitterly contested by Kiev and ratcheted up tensions between Russia and the West. Russians living in Ukraine were unable to take part in Sunday’s vote because access to Russian diplomatic missions was blocked by the Kiev government.

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Ashley Jackson

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