Thursday, 25 April, 2019

Vladimir Putin wins Russian election amid protests and ballot stuffing allegations

Russian President and Presidential candidate Vladimir Putin attends a rally and concert marking the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexatio Russian President and Presidential candidate Vladimir Putin attends a rally and concert marking the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexatio
Patty Aguilar | 19 March, 2018, 00:01

Election officials flew to far-flung regions to collect votes from indigenous herders, while cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov - the only Russian now aboard the International Space Station - cast his ballot by proxy.

Russian Federation has also vowed to retaliate after the United States imposed new sanctions on the country this week over its reported cyberattacks and meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Russia's parliament, which is controlled by Putin's United Russia party, moved the vote date back to March 18 to coincide with the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

But 70 is also a number that may hang over Putin's next six years.

NAN reports that the majority of voters see no viable alternative to Putin: he has total dominance of the political scene and the state-run television, where most people get their news, gives lavish coverage of Putin and little airtime to his rivals.

Sunday's election is expected to further embolden the Russian president both at home and in world affairs.

For some observers, the real question for Putin is whether he can now use his mandate to push for some program of economic reform.

By 7 p.m. Moscow time, authorities said turnout had hit almost 60%.

Russia's election monitors reported irregularities at voting stations across country, even though authorities were under orders to ensure that the voting was free and fair after violations marred Putin's last election in 2012.

Russian election officials said turnout was high, with nearly 64% of registered voters casting ballots in the Kamchatka region, while in remote Chukotka, which has 33,208 eligible voters, officials reported over 76% turnout, RIA-Novosti reported.

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Crimea and Russia's subsequent support of separatists in eastern Ukraine led to an array of USA and European sanctions that, along with falling oil prices, damaged the Russian economy and slashed the ruble's value by half.

Across the country in the city of Yekaterinburg, a Russian doctor also said she was being coerced to vote.

Some examples: ballot boxes being stuffed with extra ballots in multiple regions; an election official assaulting an observer; CCTV cameras obscured by flags or nets from watching ballot boxes; discrepancies in ballot numbers; last-minute voter registration changes likely created to boost turnout and a huge pro-Putin board inside one polling station. Several videos showed election officials stuffing boxes with ballot papers.

A man accused of tossing multiple ballots into a box in the far eastern town of Artyom was arrested.Navalny, whose group was also monitoring the vote, dismissed Putin's challengers on the ballot as "puppets". Polls show that most Russians see the takeover of that Black Sea peninsula as a major achievement despite subsequent Western sanctions. "There is no one else who can do it like Putin".

Yugene Yarmakov, 23, who was voting for the first time, said there were too many "joke candidates". "The others, it's a circus". Ksenia Sobchak comes fourth with 1.8 percent.

Casting his ballot in Moscow Sunday, Putin said "any" result that allowed him to continue as president would be a "success". She is the only candidate who has openly criticized Putin.

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.

The Central Election Commission also claimed it had been the target of a hacking attempt from 15 unidentified nations that was deterred by authorities.

Voters in Sevastopol, Crimea were given a medal engraved "With Russia forever", RIA-Novosti reported, to commemorate the 2014 independence referendum, considered illegitimate by Ukraine, the U.S. and its European allies.

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