Russia election: Monitors say vote skewed for Putin

 
Riot police remove a protester in Moscow, 5 March Arrests have been made in Moscow

Russia's presidential election was "clearly skewed" in favour of the winner, Vladimir Putin, international monitors have said.

Mr Putin, the current prime minister, won nearly 64% of the vote. Election observers have urged any fraud allegations be fully investigated.

At least 120 people were detained at rallies in Russia, including opposition leaders Alexei Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov in Moscow.

Pro-Putin rallies have also been held.

In Moscow, police said at least 14,000 people had attended the approved protest rally on Pushkin Square, a short walk from the Kremlin. Previous protests in the city attracted up to 100,000 people.

Start Quote

There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt”

End Quote Tonino Picula OSCE official

Mr Navalny, the blogger at the heart of the election protest movement, told the rally to applause: "They will never stop. Who will stop these people? We will!"

Arguing that the protest movement in Russia's big cities had overestimated its strength and had failed to convey to the whole country the message that "thieves and swindlers" were in power, he promised a new effort.

A number of people refused to leave the square after the rally and riot police began arresting them.

Some 50 people were arrested at a separate protest on Moscow's Lubyanka Square, where the headquarters of the Federal Security Service is located.

A rally in support of Mr Putin was held on Manege Square, beside the Kremlin, with reports of about 14,000 people attending there as well.

Andrei Isayev, a senior official in the ruling United Russia party, began the rally with the slogan "Russia, Putin, victory", chanted back by the crowd.

"We have proved our right to freedom and independence," he said. "Long live the multi-ethnic people of Russia, a conqueror people."

In St Petersburg, protesters hurled flares and let off signal rockets, Russian media report. About 70 arrests were made at an unapproved rally which numbered about 800 people, police say.

Hundreds of protesters also marched in Yekaterinburg, the main city in the Urals, chanting "Putin thief!".

'Carousel voting'

Amid claims of widespread fraud, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) urged Russia to carry out a thorough investigation.

In a statement on the OSCE website, monitors said that while all candidates had been able to campaign freely, there had been "serious problems" from the start.

"The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain," said Tonino Picula, co-ordinator of the OSCE mission.

Analysis

Mr Putin's top officials do not accept that he has been damaged in any way by the allegations of fraud. All the same, things are changing fast in Russia.

Mr Putin will blame Western interference for the protests but that is a strategy which has diminishing results. His main spokesman told me Mr Putin was really a liberal and was changing as Russia changed.

But that is unlikely to make Mr Putin easier for Western governments to deal with and British officials in particular think he may, if anything, be more difficult and more touchy especially if the protests continue rather than fade away.

Will Mr Putin last out his six-year term? A surprising number of political observers think he will not and it is very hard indeed to think he will get another term after this one.

"This was not the case in Russia. There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt."

The election was held against a backdrop of discontent, sparked by allegations of widespread fraud during the December election in favour of United Russia.

On Sunday, irregularities were seen particularly during the vote count "which was assessed negatively in almost one-third of polling stations observed", the OSCE said.

Earlier Golos, a leading Russian independent election watchdog, said it had received more than 3,000 reports of voting fraud.

The watchdog said its own exit polls suggested Mr Putin had actually won just over 50% of the vote - a result that would still have elected him in the first round.

State TV exit polls had given him about 59% of the vote.

Other allegations, including videos purporting to show evidence of voting irregularities, have been circulating online.

There were reports of "carousel voting", with voters being bussed between polling stations to cast multiple ballots, and of people being paid to vote for Mr Putin.

In other developments

  • The UK acknowledged the Russian presidential election had delivered "a decisive result" in favour of Vladimir Putin despite "some problems"
  • French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said: "Despite some criticism... the re-election of President Putin is not in doubt"
  • EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged Russia to address "shortcomings" over the vote, a spokeswoman said
  • Russian police detained a man allegedly planning to set off bombs at Moscow rallies on Monday and Tuesday
  • Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a legal review of the conviction of former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky
'Glory to Russia!'

Alexei Pushkov, an adviser to Mr Putin, told the BBC that while there might have been violations, they had happened on all sides, and would not have distorted the final result.

Moscow resident: "We are accustomed to believe in promises"

Speaking to tens of thousands of supporters in Moscow on Sunday night, an emotional Mr Putin said he had won in an open and honest battle.

"I promised you we would win, and we won - glory to Russia!" he said.

Mr Putin moved into the post of prime minister in 2008 because of a constitutional ban on a third consecutive term as president.

He will return to the presidency in May - replacing his close ally Dmitry Medvedev - and remain in post until 2018, when he could then run for another six-year term.

 

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Russian Election

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  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 200.

    This is another sad attempt by the West to try to de stablilise Russia. I have lived in Russia and I know that people are please with the good that Mr Putin has brought to Russia in last 10 years. He's very popular today as he was when he first became President. Future for Russia is bright which is more than what I can say for Western Europe and GB which is riddled with corrupt Polticians.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 190.

    Did anyone expect anything different to really happen? Putin is not the kind of guy to just give up power, whether he gets it legitimately or not.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 154.

    Overall the Russian people cast and voted for this man- whether we like it or not, and ragrdless of accusations - which losing people will alsways make the facts speak for themsleves At least we know what to expect from Mr Putin unlike the challengers of whom we know nothing.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 140.

    How many of the commentators here have ever been to Russia or know anything about the country at all? I spend a lot of time there and have a lot of Russian friends. So far as I know, all of them voted for Putin, not because they are great fans but because there is no credible alternative. A bit like those of us here who still vote labour!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 128.

    I find it stomach churning to hear the EU criticise the lack of democracy and accusations of vote rigging, when they are the worst offenders for putting in power totally unelected officials and also ignoring the will and wishes of the majority. Shut up EU and get your own house in order before you go lecturing other countries on how to run their voting systems.

 

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