Vladimir Putin has swept to a landslide victory to secure a fourth term as Russian President, keeping him in power for six more years.
A less pressing but arguably more important issue for Putin is figuring out what happens when his term is up.
With ballots from 80 percent of Russia’s precincts counted by early this morning, Putin had amassed 76 percent of the vote.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was set to congratulate Mr Putin, but said her message would raise “challenges” about relations with Russian Federation.
Putin’s campaign spokesman Andrei Kondrashov said that at more than 67 per cent, turnout was 8 to 10 percentage points higher than expected “thanks to Britain”.
Mr Putin’s nearest rival, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, won 11.8 per cent while nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky got 5.6 per cent.
Critics said citizens were compelled to turn out in order to prevent the poll’s integrity from being called into question if low turn out based on voter apathy is recorded.
The election commission acknowledged some irregularities, but maintained that the election was largely peaceful and credible.
The result gives Putin new confidence to stand up to the West and deploy Russia’s resurgent power on the world stage. Before that, the Head of state intended “to think about what and how to do”.
Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the upper house, hailed the victory as a moral one over the West.
Two election observers in Gorny Shchit, a rural district of Yekaterinburg, said they saw an unusually large influx of people going to the polls between noon and 2 p.m.
“In any country, especially democratic ones, elections are a celebration when people come to cast their vote”.
Despite a friendly-ish relationship with President Donald Trump, Putin’s new mandate gives him little incentive to seek an entente with Washington, especially as the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 United States election intensifies. However, he was appointed prime minister in 2008 in what was widely seen as a way to hold on to power. Ukraine is split between a volatile government in Kiev and a Russia-backed separatist region stuck in a frozen but still deadly conflict that serves Putin’s interests.
He has been holding the Presidential office of Russian Federation since 2012 after winning three Presidential elections consecutively.
Russians were spurred by issues that have isolated Moscow on the worldwide scene such as the Olympic ban over doping and the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, analysts said. “This will not cause any problems for our defense capability, because the main investments into the development of the newest weapons systems have been made over the previous years”, Putin told his key supporters.
The presidential term was extended from four to six years, starting in 2012.
Asked after his re-election if he would run for yet another term in the future, Putin laughed off the idea.
“At work we were forced to come and vote, with photos and all the rest of it”, said a 25-year-old man at a polling station in the Lipetsk region south of Moscow.
“He wants to show that there is a little bit of Putin in every Russian, that he plays the Russian soul like a guitar”, said political analyst Konstantin Kalachev.
In a recent interview on USA -based NBC, Putin said he has been thinking of a potential successor since 2000.
“The two leaders confirmed their close cooperation in realising North Korea’s denuclearisation”, before an expected summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the ministry said.
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