Russia re-elects Putin for fourth term in controversial election

Yuri Kadobnov/Pool Photo via AP

Vladimir Putin will lead Russia for another six-year term, after an unsurprising victory in Sunday’s presidential election.

Putin won in a landslide, with nearly 77 percent of votes cast in his favor, according to Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) data.

However, many are calling into question the integrity of the Russian election. According to Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization, “Russians [knew] the outcome of the presidential election even before casting their votes.”

Other presidential candidates stood no chance against Putin, now the longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, won 11.79 percent, ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky took 5.7 percent, former reality TV presenter Ksenia Sobchak won 1.7 percent, while veteran liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky received just more than 1 percent of the vote.

Putin received extensive media coverage on state-run television, the main source of news in Russia, and Russia’s main opposition rival, Alexei Navalny, was banned from running by the CEC due to an embezzlement conviction which Navalny said was manufactured by the Kremlin- resulting in an impartial election environment.

An independent election monitoring group, Golos Movement, warned Russian election officials and police of common election day problems.

However, voting irregularities were observed across several polling locations. A video recording from one station shows election officials stuffing ballot boxes, and in the Russian city Kemerovo, balloons appear to deliberately bock security cameras.

Additionally, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said Monday, voters had no real choice in the Russian presidential election.

Ella Pamfilova, chairperson of the CEC, announced that election results from seven polling stations, located in Dagestan, Moscow Region, Kemerovo Region, and Tyumen Region were declared invalid amid the identified violations.

Despite the controversies surrounding the election, Pamfilova thanked the Russian people for their “great civic contribution.”

Although several world leaders have congratulated Putin on his victory, including Chinese president Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and leaders of Iran, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, western leaders have been slow to compliment Putin on his victory.

Despite U.S.-Russia tensions, President Donald Trump called Putin Sunday to congratulate him on his re-election, contradicting the White House’s statement a day earlier saying that no such statement was anticipated.

Putin’s second consecutive term will extend his presidency until 2024, when he will be forced to step-down for at least one term, as per Russian federal law. This is Putin’s fourth six-year term overall, having assumed the role of prime minister from 2008 to 2012.