Thursday, 27 June, 2019

Putin on course for victory in Russian election

Information Center of the Central Election Commission in Moscow Sputnik Ilya Pitalev Russian Election Commission Refutes US Claims of Observer Status Denials
Russell Knight | 19 March, 2018, 01:37

Putin essentially ran unopposed after banning leading Putin critic and Russian opposition leader, lawyer Alexei Navalny from running for President.

The 65-year-old former KGB officer has sought to use the campaign to emphasise Russia's role as a major world power, boasting of its "invincible" new nuclear weapons in a pre-election speech.

Russian election officials moved quickly to respond to some of the violations.

Mr Putin hopes for high turnout despite widespread apathy.

The election was marred by allegations of ballot stuffing across Russian Federation, where officials were anxious about a lack of enthusiasm among 111 million eligible voters. But the disputes likely worked in Mr Putin's favour, reinforcing the official contention that the West is infected with "Russophobia" and is determined to undermine Mr Putin and Russian cultural values. A man accused of tossing multiple ballots into a box in the far eastern town of Artyom was arrested.

Russian officials denounced both cases as efforts to interfere in the Russian election.

At home, Putin must face how to groom a successor or devise a strategy to circumvent term limits, how to diversify an economy still dependent on oil and gas, and how to improve medical care and social services in regions far removed from the cosmopolitan glitter of Moscow.

About 107 million Russians were eligible to cast ballots and the central election commission said turnout was 60 percent, after the authorities used both the carrot and the stick to boost participation.

First-time voters in Moscow were given free tickets for pop concerts and health authorities were offering free cancer screenings.

The ban started a call to boycott the Russian presidential election vote but that boycott was thwarted seemingly typical Putin strong-arm tactics.

Russian authorities had appealed to patriotic feelings by holding Sunday's election on the anniversary of Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

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Authorities have spent unprecedented funds to get out the vote to ensure he has a strong mandate for his next six years in office. Vladimir Putin is now leading with over 76 percent of the vote, well above the simple majority needed to avoid a run-off.

That insulted the Ukrainian government, which refused to let ordinary Russians vote, drawing angry protests from Russian officials. Ukrainian security forces blocked the Russian Embassy in Kiev and consulates elsewhere as the government protested against the voting in Crimea, whose annexation is still not internationally recognised.

Despite the damage done to the Russian economy by Western sanctions following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, growth has returned to a solid 2% or so, muting potential discontent.

"Who am I voting for? Who else?" asked Putin supporter Andrei Borisov, 70, a retired engineer in Moscow.

"The others, it's a circus". One independent exit poll gave him a couple of points more than that.

Critics think Mr Sobchak has the tacit support of the Kremlin so that the election looks more democratic, which she denies.

Presidential challenger Ksenia Sobchak, a 36-year-old TV host, urged Putin's critics to "come together" and vote Sunday instead of boycotting.

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".

"A row with London can do Putin no harm, especially among voters who share his uncompromising nationalist worldview and his smouldering sense of victimhood", an article in the Guardian said this week.

As U.S. authorities investigate alleged Russian interference in the country's 2016 presidential election, Moscow has warned of possible U.S. meddling in the Russian vote.

Russia's central election commission says its website was the target of an unsuccessful hacking attempt during Sunday's presidential election.

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