Putin wins 'tainted' election

 

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rolled to victory in Russia's presidential election today, according to exit polls cited by state television, but the vote was tainted by claims of violations, including "carousel voting" in which voters were bused around to cast several ballots.

Putin tallied 58%, according to a nationwide exit poll conducted by the VTsIOM polling agency. Another exit poll by the FOM opinion survey service showed Putin received 59% of the ballot.

Official vote results from the far eastern regions where the count was already completed seemed to confirm the poll data. With just over 20% of all precincts counted, Putin was leading the field with 63% of the vote, the Central Election Commission said.

But if thousands of claims of violations made by independent observers and Putin's foes are confirmed, they could undermine the legitimacy of his victory and fuel protests. The opposition is gearing up for a massive rally in downtown Moscow tomorrow.

"These elections are not free ... that's why we'll have protests tomorrow. We will not recognise the president as legitimate," said Mikhail Kasyanov, who was Putin's first prime minister before going into opposition.

Golos, Russia's leading independent elections watchdog, said it received numerous reports of "carousel voting," in which busloads of voters are driven around to cast ballots multiple times.

Alexei Navalny, one of the opposition's most charismatic leaders, said observers trained by his organisation also reported seeing extensive use of the practice.

Evidence of widespread vote fraud in December's parliamentary election drew tens of thousands to protest against Putin, who was president in 2000-2008 before moving into the prime minister's office due to term limits. They were the largest outburst of public anger in post-Soviet Russia and demonstrated growing exasperation with massive corruption, rising social inequality and tight controls over political life under Putin.

Putin has dismissed the protesters' demands, casting them as a minority of urban elites working at Western behest to weaken Russia. His claims that the United States was behind the opposition protests resonated with his core support base of blue-collar workers, farmers and state employees, who are suspicious of Western intentions after years of state propaganda.

Authorities gave permission to Putin's supporters to gather just outside the Kremlin walls, and tens of thousands flooded the big square immediately after the vote ended. Some participants of the demonstration, including employees of state organisations, said they were forced by the management to attend it under the threat of punishment.

The authorities denied the opposition's bid to hold the rally at the same place tomorrow, but allowed them to gather at a nearby square.

The Communist Party candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, was trailing far behind Putin with 18%, according to the exit polls. The others - nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Sergei Mironov of the socialist Just Russia party and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov - were in single digits.

Putin has promised that the vote would be fair, and the authorities apparently have sought to take off the steam out of the protest movement by allowing more observers to monitor the vote. Tens of thousands of Russians, most of them politically active for the first time, had volunteered to be election observers, receiving training on how to recognise vote-rigging and record and report violations.

Golos said monitors have recorded fewer obvious violations than during the December election, but they still believe that violations are extensive. This time, election officials are using more complicated and subtle methods, said Golos deputy director Grigory Melkonyants.

According to data based on official figures from polling stations attended by Golos observers, Putin still garnered some 55 per cent of the vote, while Zyuganov won about 19%.

Prokhorov said on Channel One television after the vote that authorities kept his observers away from some polling stations and were beaten on two occasions.

Ivan Melnikov, a deputy chief of the Communist Party, said the "vote was neither free nor fair". He claimed that the authorities set up numerous additional polling stations and alleged that hundreds of thousands of voters cast ballots at the ones in Moscow alone in an apparent attempt to rig the vote.

Oksana Dmitriyeva, a Duma deputy from Just Russia party, tweeted that they were witnessing "numerous cases of observers being expelled from polling stations" across St Petersburg just before the vote count.

Unlike Moscow and other big cities, where independent observers showed up en masse, election officials in Russia's North Caucasus and other regions were largely left to their one devices. The opposition said those regions have experienced particularly massive vote rigging in the past.

A web camera at a polling station in Dagestan, a Caucasus province near Chechnya, registered unidentified people tossing ballot after ballot into boxes. The Central Election Commission quickly responded to the video, which was posted on the internet, saying the results from the station will be invalidated.

Web cameras were installed in Russia's more than 90,000 polling stations, a move initiated by Putin in response to complaints of ballot stuffing and fraudulent counts in December's parliamentary elections.

"This is not an election ... it is an imitation," said Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition leader.

But despite the increased resentment against Putin's rule among the rising middle class, opinion polls ahead of the vote had shown Putin positioned to win easily.

Police presence was heavy throughout the city today. There were no immediate reports of trouble, although police arrested three young women who stripped to the waist at the polling station where Putin cast his ballot; one of them had the word "thief" written on her bare back.

Putin thanked his supporters for helping foil plots aimed at destroying Russia, sounding a nationalistic theme that has resonated with his core supporters.

"I have promised that we would win and we have won!" he shouted to the flag-waving crowd, which responded with shouts of support. "We have won in an open and honest struggle."

If thousands of claims of violations made by independent observers and Putin's foes are confirmed, they would undermine the legitimacy of his victory and fuel protests. The opposition is gearing up for a massive rally in downtown Moscow tomorrow.

"These elections are not free ... that's why we'll have protests tomorrow. We will not recognise the president as legitimate," said Mikhail Kasyanov, who was Putin's first prime minister before going into opposition.

Golos, Russia's leading independent elections watchdog, said it received numerous reports of "carousel voting," in which busloads of voters are driven around to cast ballots multiple times.

Alexei Navalny, one of the opposition's most charismatic leaders, said observers trained by his organisation also reported seeing extensive use of the practice.

Evidence of widespread vote fraud in December's parliamentary election drew tens of thousands to protest against Putin, who was president in 2000-2008 before moving into the prime minister's office due to term limits. They were the largest outburst of public anger in post-Soviet Russia and demonstrated growing exasperation with massive corruption, rising social inequality and tight controls over political life under Putin.

Putin has dismissed the protesters' demands, casting them as a minority of urban elites working at Western behest to weaken Russia.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future