Putin headed for easy re-election in Russia's presidential race - 6 more years

19 March, 2018, 13:21 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Alexei Pavlishak  TASS

Vladimir Putin looks set to be Russia's president for six more years as an exit poll and early returns suggest he has easily won a fourth term.

The vote will last for a total of 22 hours, as Russians across all the country's 11 time zones, spanning from Kamchatka and Chukotka in the East to the westernmost enclave of Kaliningrad, will be heading to polls on Sunday. Russia's annexation of the region from Ukraine in 2014 earned Putin condemnation from Western governments and admiration from many Russians.

Putin is so certain of winning that authorities are investing instead in massive get-out-the-vote efforts to produce a turnout that would embolden the Russian leader both domestically and internationally.

Yevgeny Roizman, a Kremlin opponent who is mayor of the industrial city of Yekaterinburg, said officials were using inducements to persuade people to vote. Navalny and his supporters had called for an election boycott but the extent of its success could not immediately be gauged.

When she hadn't voted by midday, "The chief of my unit called me and said I was the only one who hadn't voted", said the doctor, Yekaterina, who spoke on condition her last name not be used because she also feared repercussions.

"It's not something you can argue about", she said at a cafe Saturday. "Things are all right for us", said Alexei.

"What's the point? We already know the outcome". Voters also faced billboards celebrating Russian greatness - a major theme of Putin's leadership. Among them are: incumbent President Vladimir Putin; Pavel Grudinin, director of the Lenin State Farm (nominated by the Communist Party of Russia); TV personality and socialite Ksenia Sobchak (nominated by Civil Initiative); Sergey Baburin, head of the Russian People's Union party; Maxim Suraikin, chairman of the Central Committee of the Communists of Russia party; Boris Titov, chairman of the Party of Growth and Russian Presidential Envoy for Entrepreneurs' Rights; Grigory Yavlinsky, head of the Yabloko Party's federal political committee; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).

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As U.S. authorities investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election won by Donald Trump, Moscow had warned of possible U.S. meddling in the Russian vote.

In Moscow, first-time voters were being given free tickets for pop concerts and health authorities were offering free cancer screenings at some polling stations.

Turnout-boosting efforts have been the most visible feature of the campaign.

Since first being elected as president in 2000, Putin has stamped his total authority on Russian Federation muzzling opposition and reasserting Moscow's lost might overseas.

One incident was recorded in the town of Lyubertsy just outside Moscow.

In the southern city of Tambov, the state-sponsored Youth Parliament has backed an Instagram competition. Voters who took selfies at polling stations could enter a raffle for high-end electronics, including an iPhone X.

Election observers and local media have reported threats and coercion of voters to re-register at their place of work and report later that they have voted.

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But while elections are a serious matter, there were those who took the time to have fun while casting their vote.

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

Putin has traveled across Russian Federation pledging to raise wages, pour more funds into the country's crumbling health care and education and modernize dilapidated infrastructure.

Some 145,000 observers were monitoring the presidential vote, including 1,500 foreigners, and they and ordinary Russians reported hundreds of problems. The exit poll had a margin of error of no more than 3.5%.

Sunday also marks exactly 4 years since Putin signed a treaty declaring Crimea part of Russian Federation following its annexation from Ukraine, an action that led to the war in the east of the former Soviet state.

Navalny, the opposition leader whose group was also monitoring the vote, dismissed Putin's challengers on the ballot as "puppets".

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