Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has trumped his four rivals to win Russia’s presidential elections on Sunday but his victory was tainted by opposition complaints of numerous violations.
With almost 100 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Putin received 63.6 percent, with the next runner-up, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, trailing with less than 18 percent. More than 65 percent of 108 registered voters took part in the election. Mr. Putin scored almost 100 percent of votes in economically most depressive regions, such as Chechnya and Dagestan, which depend on federal subsidies for their survival.
Moscow, the epicentre of recent anti-Putin rallies triggered by evidence of fraud in the December parliamentary poll, was the only one of Russia’s 83 regions where Mr. Putin failed to win half of all votes.
In an emotional late-night address to more than 100,000 supporters bussed to Moscow from many cities Mr. Putin said he had won a “clean” victory.
“We have won in an open and honest battle,” Mr. Putin said standing on Manezh Square just outside the Kremlin alongside outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev.
Tens of thousands of Mr. Putin’s opponents responded by staging a counter-rally in Moscow on Monday to protest the official results of the presidential poll and demanded new parliamentary and presidential elections.
Independent observers registered thousands of violations in Sunday’s elections that may have inflated Mr. Putin’s result.
Opposition activist Alexei Navalny said his Rosvybory web project had collected more than 6,000 violation reports. Golos, an election watchdog group, said it had received more than 3,000 complaints of voting fraud.
An alternative vote count organised by Golos showed Mr. Putin received about 50.3 percent of the votes, just enough to avoid a runoff, but 13 percent less than the official result.
Independent election monitors complained of large-scale “carousel” multiple voting, manipulations with voter lists and non-admission and forceful removal of observers.
Monitors with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) said on Monday that Russia's presidential elections were “clearly skewed” in favour of the winner.
“There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt,” said OSCE observer team spokesman Tonino Picula.
Mr. Putin, who served two four-year terms from 2000 to2008, will now stay in office for six years, as the presidential term was extended two years ago. He will also have the right to seek re-election in 2018, which could make him the longest serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin.