Incumbent Russian leader Vladimir Putin is set to secure a resounding victory in the Russian presidential election, according to partial results made public by the electoral commission.
Vladimir Putin is now leading with over 76 percent of the vote, well above the simple majority needed to avoid a run-off.
First-time Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin is running second with close to 12 percent of the vote, while veteran nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who first ran against Boris Yeltsin in 1991, rounds out the top three with about six percent.
The early results are in line with exit-polls conducted by Russian polling agencies FOM, which predicted Putin would take 77 percent of the vote, and VCIOM, which forecast a final share of 73.9 percent for the current president.
Shortly after the first results were announced, Vladimir Putin addressed his supporters at a massive anniversary rally in Moscow’s Red Square, marking Crimea's reunification with Russia, and talked to reporters in his election campaign HQ. He thanked his backers and answered questions on the hottest political issues.
Putin was first elected to the Kremlin in 2000, and again four years later. Constitutionally barred from serving more than two consecutive terms, he did not run in 2008, the same year presidential terms were extended from four years to six years. Putin won 63.6 percent of the vote in 2012, and, if the early results are confirmed, he will now stay in his post until 2024, the year he turns 72.
Vladimir Putin on Sunday stormed to victory in Russia’s presidential election on Sunday, giving him another six years in power, as Moscow’s relations with the West plunge to new Cold War lows.
Putin, who has ruled Russia for almost two decades, won more than 75 percent of the vote according to preliminary results, but the opposition cried foul.
From Soviet comparisons to accusations of authoritarianism, mainstream coverage of Russia’s presidential election has barely changed since 2004, though mentions of the UK spy poisoning scandal did add a fresh layer of insinuation.
As Putin was thanking his supporters for a landslide victory from the stage in Red Square, Western outlets rolled out long, pre-written news stories, liberally mixing reporting and opinion.
“The vote was tainted by widespread reports of ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but the complaints will likely do little to undermine Putin,” wrote AP’s lead report. “The Russian leader’s popularity remains high despite his suppression of dissent and reproach from the West over Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance in world affairs and alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election.”
The Washington Post called Sunday’s vote an “elaborate presidential-election-day spectacle” that sought “to legitimize the election,” which “critics described as a charade,” by boosting the turnout as “a lack of suspense or popular opposition candidates threatened to keep people home.”
Calling the election a “hollow exercise,” the New York Times reached for the most predictable of parallels.
“Gone were the Soviet days when there was just one name on the ballot and the winner habitually harvested 99 percent of the vote. The spirit was similar, however, with pictures of Mr. Putin and his campaign slogan, ‘Strong president, strong Russia,’ blanketing the country,” it wrote.
In its top report. CNN said that Putin “seeks tighter grip on power,” while also reminding its readers that “he is already the country’s longest-serving leader since the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin” (which is not actually true – that would be Leonid Brezhnev). CNN added that Putin is “banking on confrontation with international players this election.”
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia didn’t even bother with such nuances, calling Putin a straight-up “dictator,”though the article was later amended to merely describe the vote as “inevitable.”