Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images
In a result that surprised no one, Russian voters handed Vladimir Putin a resounding victory in the presidential election Sunday, taking the current prime minister back to the position he held from 2000 to 2008. Exit polls showed Putin with around 60 percent of the vote, when his nearest rival didn’t even get to 20 percent. Putin was quick to declare victory “even as the opposition and independent observers insisted the vote had been marred by widespread fraud,” writes the Associated Press.
“I promised you that we would win and we have won!” Putin shouted to a huge crowd that had gathered to celebrate his victory. “We have won in an open and honest struggle.”
While the results of the election were never really in doubt, the stage is now set “for a far more suspenseful post-election confrontation between Mr. Putin and opposition groups,” writes the New York Times.
Widespread fraud allegations following the December parliamentary elections led to the biggest antigovernment demonstrations in Moscow since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Opposition groups have already called for a protest on Monday night in Moscow, which opposition leaders are billing as “a test of the loosely organized movement’s ability to keep up pressure on the Kremlin,” notes the Wall Street Journal. There’s some concern that the government could crack down on protesters more harshly after the elections. Regardless, Putin is largely expected to frame his victory as backing against the protesters, “whom he has portrayed as a minority and pawns of foreign governments,” writes Reuters.
Moscow was the site of some of the worst voter fraud in December’s parliamentary election but on Sunday there were so many election observers that they seemed “to be putting a damper on blatant vote-rigging,” reports the Washington Post, noting that activists insisted there were still plenty of violations outside the city and across the country.
“The cheating has been on a vast scale,” opposition activist Alexei Navalny told the BBC. “Vladimir Putin hasn't won this election. He's appointed himself president.”