Putin far ahead in fraud-tainted Russian vote

Posted March 19, 2018

Russia's incumbent President Vladimir Putin is heading for a landslide victory in Sunday's presidential polls, with 73.11% of the vote, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) said after counting 30.01% of ballots. His opponents have called the election a farce, but his millions of fans hail the former KGB officer for restoring Russian greatness and defending their nation from a hostile world. Russian media have cited Kremlin sources hoping that the increased turnout among the country's 111 million registered voters would improve the legitimacy of the election in the eyes of the global community.

Nikolay Bulayev of the Central Election Commission said 34 per cent of eligible voters had made their way to polling stations by midday Moscow time, nine hours before counting was due to begin in central Russian Federation.

But another Putin supporter, Lyubov Kachan, a teacher in the settlement of Ust-Djeguta, in southern Russian Federation, said: "I voted for Putin".

A woman exits a polling booth as she prepares to cast her ballot in the presidential election at the Lenin state farm outside Moscow, Sunday, March 18, 2018. It could also strengthen his hand if he decides to extend his rule beyond 2024 by abolishing term limits - like neighbouring China has just done - or by shifting into another position of power.

"I am sure the programme I am offering is the right one", said the man who is already Russia's longest-serving leader since Stalin.

The commission said it is quickly responding to claims of violations in the vote.

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Putin, who has been in power for 18 years, was widely expected to glide into another six-year tenure with most polls suggesting he could take around 70 per cent of the vote.

This was the first-time voters in Moscow were being given free pop concert tickets for voting.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was barred from running against Putin, said he boycotted the election and had urged supporters not to vote because of the absence of any real competition, despite seven other names on the ballot.

Election officials flew to far-flung regions to collect votes from indigenous herders, while cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov - the only Russian now aboard the International Space Station - cast his ballot by proxy.

With the vast country stretching across 11 time zones, polls opened in the Russian Far East at 2000 GMT on Saturday and will close in Kaliningrad, the country's exclave on the European Union border, at 1800 GMT today.

And in the far eastern town of Artyom a man tossed several ballots into the box, according to Tatiana Gladkhikh, the head of the regional election commission.

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Authorities also appealed to patriotic feelings by holding the vote on the anniversary of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

In a sign of continued tension between Kiev and Moscow, Ukraine said Sunday it would not allow Russians in the country to vote at Russian consulates, according to a statement from the government information agency, Ukrinform.

Polls show that most Russians view the takeover of the Black Sea peninsula as a major achievement despite subsequent Western sanctions.

"I will not go to vote".

One teacher from southern Russian Federation knew exactly why she voted for Putin. "The others, it's a circus". She is the only candidate who has openly criticized Putin in the campaign.

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