Putin landslide expected as Russians vote

Cheryl Sanders
March 20, 2018

Mr Putin, whose approval ratings top 80%, is set to easily win another six-year term against seven challengers, but the Kremlin has been concerned about voter apathy and has sought to boost turnout to make his victory as impressive as possible.

Alexei Navalny, an outspoken Putin critic who was barred from running for president himself, called on his supporters to boycott the vote.

"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.

Observers reported widespread ballot stuffing and unprecedented pressure on Russians to vote, but that is unlikely to seriously damage Putin given his popularity and his tight control over Russian politics.

With nearly all the ballots counted, he had received more than 76% of the vote, the central election commission said.

Vladimir Putin ran for office against millionaire communist Pavel Grudinin, who received about 12%, Ksenia Sobchak, a former reality TV host, and veteran nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky who got less than 2% and about 6% respectively.

Just weeks before the election, he announced that Russian Federation has developed advanced nuclear weapons capable of evading missile defences.

Some 80 percent of polling stations are under video surveillance, according to the commission.

"I think that in the United States and Britain they've understood they can not influence our elections", Senator Igor Morozov said on state television.

Russian President Vladimir Putin today urged Russians to vote on Sunday.

"This is a huge event for the country - electing Russia's president".

Instructions following the president's annual address to both chambers of the Russian parliament on March 1 were published Friday, and showed Putin tasking prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and his government with extending the scheme by July 15.

Britain and Russian Federation are locked in a diplomatic dispute over the spy poisoning incident, and Washington is eyeing new sanctions on Moscow over allegations it interfered in the 2016 US presidential election, which Russian Federation denies.

Most people who spoke to AFP on Sunday said they voted for Putin, praising him for restoring stability and national pride after the humiliating collapse of the Soviet Union.

"What, am I going to sit here until I am 100 years old?"

"After he brought Crimea back, he became a hero to me".

Authorities were also appealing to patriotic feelings by holding the vote on the anniversary of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Abroad, he faces spiraling conflict after the United Kingdom directly accused Putin of ordering the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal earlier this month.

In response, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats, prompting a tit-for-tat move by Moscow.

"As a representative of the younger generation, I can say that for us, young Russians, all the doors are open".

But less likely are bigger changes such as overhauling the pension system, which is unpopular among a strong Putin voting base, or spending cuts in the security sector, unpopular among the ex-KGB friends in Putin's entourage. "I hope and wish that we will be able to counteract the estrangement on our continent, and between the people of Russian Federation and Germany, and that you will use your new term of office for this goal".

The doctor, who gave her name only as Yekaterina because of fears about repercussions, said she and her co-workers were told to fill out forms detailing not only where they would cast their ballots, but giving the names and details of two "allies" whom they promised to persuade to go vote.

Other reports by iNewsToday