Russia formalises Putin election win, dismissing criticism

Russia formalised Thursday President Vladimir Putin’s victory in last week’s presidential election, dismissing scathing criticism by the West and independent Russian observers that it was the most corrupt vote in post-Soviet history.

The three-day vote last weekend saw Putin cruise to an easy victory for a fifth Kremlin term, unchallenged by any meaningful opposition.

The election was also held in occupied Ukraine. Voting took place two years into Moscow’s Ukraine offensive and one month after Putin’s main opponent died in an Arctic prison.

Russia’s electoral chief Ella Pamfilova said final results showed Putin won 87.28 percent of the vote.

She called the election — which sees Putin’s 24-year rule extended by another six years — “historic.”

Pamfilova said turnout was 77.49 percent.

The Kremlin had encouraged Russians to vote out of patriotic duty, despite Putin’s win being inevitable.

The Russian leader thanked Russians for their “support” in an address on Thursday after the final results were published.

Pamfilova claimed a “very clean” election campaign and brushed off Western criticism.

“This is not the first time we have heard this,” she said.

Putin crushed three other hand-picked opponents, who each received tiny percentages of the vote.

None of them had openly challenged Putin, but Pamfilova said the vote was fair and competitive.

“It is a different kind of opposition. They do not agree with everything and criticise things… But they are pro-Russian,” she said.

“Unlike others who are anti-Russian opposition in the current conditions when there is a war,” she said, seemingly referring to Putin’s opponents who have been forced into exile.

Thousands took part in the opposition’s call to form long queues at midday on the final day of the vote.

The election was also marred by ballot spoiling — with some across Russia pouring green dye in ballot boxes in protest.

Pamfilova said “30 ballot boxes were covered in green dye” but said “most (ballots) were saved.”

In his victory speech, Putin said Russian ballot spoilers should be “dealt with”.

On Wednesday, a court in Saint Petersburg ordered a woman who spoiled her ballot to serve eight days in jail.

Independent Russian election monitor Golos said in a statement after the vote that it had “never seen a presidential campaign that fell so far short of meeting constitutional standards.”

It said the vote took place in an atmosphere of “military censorship” that was “implemented through fear and force.”

Golos said pressure was especially fierce on the last day of the vote, when the opposition called for protests at noon, saying people were being told when to vote.

“There has never been anything like this on such a scale during elections in Russia,” Golos said.

It also said the vote had “the smallest number of competitors in Russian history and the candidates themselves were the most little known and unpopular.”

The only candidate who said he wanted to end Moscow’s Ukraine offensive, Boris Nadezhdin, was barred from running.

Golos was branded a “foreign agent” in 2021, a month before parliamentary elections.

Its co-founder Grigory Melkonyants was arrested in 2022 and accused of having links with a European observer organisation deemed “undesirable” in Russia.

He faces up to six years in prison.

AFP

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