Moscow: Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Russia’s presidential election today,
with tears rolling down his cheeks, but Opposition and independent
observers said the vote was marred by widespread violations.
promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia,” Putin told a
rally just metres from the Kremlin in the centre of Moscow.
tallied 58-59 per cent of the votes, according to exit polls cited by
state television. Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov received
about 18 per cent, according to the survey. The others — nationalist
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, socialist Sergei Mironov and billionaire Mikhail
Prokhorov — were in single digits.
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 on Monday.
“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 the Opposition.
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.
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 because of term limits.
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.
has dismissed the protesters’ demands, casting them as a coddled
minority of the urban elite working at western behest to weaken Russia.
-THE TELEGRAPH, CALCUTTA