Surprising no one, Vladimir Putin sailed to a win in Russia’s presidential election, securing his fourth term in office. Exit polls showed an overwhelming victory, with 75% for the strongman with half the votes counted. Independent observers and journalists reported multiple irregularities at the polls, including stuffing ballots, and physically blocking people from casting their votes.
That Putin would win, and by a wide margin, was expected, and many were looking to the level of turnout as an indication of the strength of his mandate. Three hours before the vote ended, the reported turnout was high, at nearly 60%.
The second-place finisher was millionaire Pavel Grudinin, with 13% of the vote. Ksenia Sobchak, the socialite and former reality TV star, received less than 1.5%. Putin’s main political opponent, anti-corruption activist Alexei Navally, was banned from running.
Backing Putin, among others, is Russia’s youth, who do not know another leader. They are satisfied with enjoying a higher standard of living than that of their parents, the Wall Street Journal reported (paywall).
While Putin has legitimate support from large swaths of the population, his win was reportedly bolstered by dirty tactics. In polling stations, camera views were obscured by balloons and curtains. There are suspicions of forced voting by groups bussed into polling stations. Ballots were being stuffed, and voters beaten, the Independent reported.