Putin returns for possible 12 yrs amid controversy

Graham Stack in Moscow for Business New Europe (www.bne.eu)
Vladimir Putin returned as president of Russia on March 4, 12 years after becoming president of Russia for the first time, with a potential further 12-year long presidency ahead of him. Opponents accused him of falsifying the elections and are planning a protest near the Kremlin at 7:00 pm local time.

With nearly 100% of the votes counted, Putin had almost 64% of the vote, meaning there would be bo need of a second round. His nearest rival, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, received about 17%, while nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, former parliamentary speaker Sergei Mironov and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov all got below 10%. “I promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia,” a tearful (from the wind, apparently) Putin told tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters by the Kremlin’s red walls.

If Putin serves the two further six-year presidential terms he is allowed to by law, he will be 71 years old by the time he bows out in 2024, and will have effectively ruled Russia for 24 years, counting his four-year interim as prime minister. But heightened attention in Russia to electoral fraud and a strengthening civil society will undermine the legitimacy of this election victory and ask demanding questions of Putin’s top-down governance system going forward.

Putin’s first round victory with an overwhelming majority almost exactly matched the latest opinion poll results published by the respected independent polling organization Levada Center. The most recent poll published February 25 found that 66% of voters who had decided to vote would do so for Putin.

But there were numerous reports throughout the day of apparent electoral fraud involving in particular “carousel” voting whereby groups of hired hands equipped with absentee ballots are bussed from polling station to polling station.

Second-place candidate Zyuganov, contesting and losing his fourth election, said he would not recognize the elections as legitimate. He called the elections “illegitimate, dishonest and untransparent.”

Read more at http://www.bne.eu/story3309/RUSSIA_VOTES_Putin_returns_for_possible_12_yrs_amid_controversy

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