Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Putin retains grip on power, exit poll shows

PA Wire  PA Images                   Theresa May has set Russia deadline of midnight tonight to respond PA Wire PA Images Theresa May has set Russia deadline of midnight tonight to respond
Andrew Cummings | 19 March, 2018, 12:50

M - Vladimir Putin will lead Russian Federation for another six years, after securing an expected victory in Sunday's presidential election, BBC reported.

Putin's re-election was widely expected, and elections officials had pushed hard for a strong turnout to claim an indisputable mandate.

Other examples from observers and social media included ballot boxes being stuffed with extra ballots in multiple regions; an election official assaulting an observer; CCTV cameras obscured by flags or nets from watching ballot boxes; discrepancies in ballot numbers; last-minute voter registration changes likely created to boost turnout; and a huge pro-Putin sign in one polling station. The Kremlin needs a high turnout to add greater legitimacy to a new term for Putin, who is already Russia's longest serving leader since Joseph Stalin.

The election took place on the fourth anniversary of the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, one of the most dramatic manifestations of Putin's drive to reassert Russia's power. Only Russian diplomats were allowed to access official Russian premises.

Since first being elected president in 2000, Putin has stamped his total authority on the world's biggest country, muzzling opposition, putting television under state control and reasserting Moscow's standing overseas.

But expectations were shaken up by Sobchak, a 36-year-old former reality show host and in recent years a tough-talking journalist, who made a surprise decision to stand.

Putin's ability to confront the West has increased after President Donald Trump's election exposed fault lines between the US and Europe and the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union, said Roderic Lyne, former British ambassador to Russian Federation. Though Mr. Putin is constitutionally barred from running for another term in 2024, Mr. Ryabov said he hoped Mr. Putin would find a way to stay in office beyond that date "like [Chinese President] Xi Jinping".

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Alexei Navalny, the first politician in years to challenge the Kremlin's grip on power, is barred from the race because of a corruption conviction he says was fabricated by the Kremlin.

Putin has been president or prime minister since December 1999, making him the only leader that a generation of Russians has ever known. Voters also faced billboards celebrating Russian greatness - a big theme of Putin's leadership. "I mean everyone who voted today and due to the position of whom this very decent result emerged", Sputnik news quoted the President as saying here on Sunday night. "We don't need changes now".

The Communist Party's ideology is a mixture of Soviet nostalgia and conservative values, combining patriotic loyalty to the Kremlin with criticism of Putin's economic policies.

Navalny - who called on his supporters to boycott the "fake" vote and sent more than 33,000 observers across the country to see how official turnout figures differed from those of monitors - said there had been "unprecedented violations".

By 5pm Moscow time, authorities said turnout had hit almost 52 per cent.

Polls show that most Russians view the takeover of the Black Sea peninsula as a major achievement despite subsequent Western sanctions. Students in several cities have been warned they may face problems in examinations or even expulsion if they do not turn out to vote.

Among the first world leaders to congratulate Putin was Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has just been handed a second term himself and has gained a path to indefinite rule after presidential term limits were lifted last week. But those demonstrations were quashed and once he was back in the Kremlin a crackdown followed, with activists arrested, the Pussy Riot rock band jailed and draconian new laws criminalising popular protest passed.

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