Vladimir Putin has extended his grip on power in Russia for another six years following an overwhelming victory in Sunday’s presidential election. In a triumphant but brief speech, he told cheering supporters that “we are bound for success”.
With 99.8 per cent of the votes counted, Putin won with 76.7 per cent, according to Central Election Commission data. He sailed to victory against the backdrop of wall-to-wall support from state media and with no serious challenger.
His closest rival, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, won 11.79 per cent, while ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky took 5.7 per cent. Former reality TV presenter Ksenia Sobchak was on 1.7 per cent, while veteran liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky received just over 1 per cent of the vote.
Putin’s fiercest opponent, Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race.
The result of the polls means Putin will rule Russia until 2024, when he will be 71 and obliged by law to step down.
He was declared victory in front of thousands of people gathered in below-freezing temperatures at Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin. More than 30,000 supporters were at the square adjacent the Kremlin in temperatures of minus-10 degrees (15-degrees F) for a victory concert and to await his words.
Addressing the crowd, Putin said, “We are a single team, I am a member of this team, and all those who cast their ballots today are members of our large national team,” he said, after a colorful show of high-energy musical performances.
“I see this as a sign of trust and hope, the hope of our people that we will work as hard, with the same responsibility and effectiveness as before. Thank you for being such a powerful, millions-strong team. We will definitely succeed.”
Meanwhile, observers and individual voters reported widespread violations including ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but the claims are unlikely to dilute the power of Russia’s longest-serving leader since Josef Stalin of defunct soviet union.