Vladimir Putin has declared victory in Russia’s presidential elections, returning for a third term. Exit polls and preliminary results gave him about 60% of the vote.
Putin has spent the last four years as the Prime Minister of Russia, because is not possible to be the Russian president for three consecutive terms.
Putin told supporters at a rally in Moscow they had won in an open and honest democratic battle. Putin has also thanked his supporters from every corner of the country.
But opposition groups have reported widespread fraud, with many people said to have voted more than once. They have called for mass protests in Moscow tomorrow.
At the same time supporters of Putin gathered with Russian flags and banners outside the Kremlin for a concert to celebrate his victory.
Putin told them he promised he would win and he won. And stresses he won in an open and honest democratic election.
People showed slogans in the concert such as “Putin, our president”, or “We believe in Putin”, but some sources said there are indicators that some participants had been ordered to attend.
The 60% majority predicted by exit polls almost the same moment when polls closed were seen as a confirmation of victory for Putin supporters and a confirmation of fraud for Putin opposition.
Those who favor Putin said that it confirmed their view that his experience and strongman style made him the most appropriate candidate for president, and exit polls merely showed that most Russians agreed with them.
Meanwhile, those opposed to him said It confirmed their suspicion that presidential election was once again not a fair reflection of the country’s preferences, but a precooked theatrical display, manipulated to produce the result the Kremlin always wanted.
However, the electoral commission showed preliminary results, with returns from more than half the polling districts, showing Putin get over 64% support, enough to give him a first-round victory.
His nearest rival, Gennady Zyuganov, get 17% support, and other three candidates were in single digits.
Zyuganov stated in a news conference after the polls closed that the elections were unfair and unworthy. Also he added that, given the increasing public anger, Putin would not be able to rule like he used to.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the leaders of the street protest movement, said these elections cannot be considered legitimate in any way.
By his side, Stanislav Govorukhin, campaign chief at Putin candidature, stated the polls are the cleanest in Russian history.
The turnout was more than 58% by 18:00, considerably higher than past elections. Electoral officials forecast a final turnout of around 62%.
The elections have been held against a backdrop of popular discontent, sparked by allegations of widespread fraud in favor of Putin.
Observer organizations said there had been thousands of violations including so-called carousel voting, it is busloads of voters being driven around to different polling stations.
The alleged fraud came despite the presence of thousands of independent observers and web cameras at polling stations.
Alexey Navalny, opposition blogger and anti-corruption campaigner, wrote in his blog “Grandiose scale of falsifications, especially in Moscow… mass use of carousel voting”.