A tearful Vladimir Putin greeted supporters following his re-election as Russian president yesterday.
In front of a crowd of over 100,000 on Manezhnaya Square in the country’s capital, the man who has sat atop the country’s political scene for over a decade announced his return to the Kremlin after receiving almost 64% of the vote:
“I promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia.”
In a night that boasted few surprises, Putin comfortably beat the Communist party candidate Gennady Zyuganov into second place with 17.2% of the vote. As far as predictions were concerned the only upset was Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, overcoming veteran politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky to secure third place.
The scale of the victory means that Putin will avoid a second round run-off, a goal that was seen as key for his campaign following large protests in the country. Some observers, however, have expressed surprise at the final tally.
A pre-election poll conducted by the VTsIOM All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion last month gave the presidential frontrunner 53% while exit polls on the night suggested a figure of between 58-59%. Moreover despite a $500m (£316m) scheme to install web cameras at polling stations across Russia, the League of Voters volunteer observer group said it had recorded 3,000 cases of electoral violations. (blog continues below)
Stanislav Govorukhin, Putin’s campaign chief, dismissed the allegations of widespread violations calling yesterday’s vote “the cleanest election in Russia’s entire history”.
With rallies scheduled across Moscow today the opposition will want to demonstrate that the results have not undermined their momentum. That said there are few today who doubt where the balance of power remains in the country.