Yesterday, on Sunday of March 4, 2012, Vladimir Putin, currently Russia’s prime-minister, declared his victory in the Russian presidential elections; the victory that was overshadowed by widespread reports of vote-rigging, ballot fraud and other violations during the electoral process across the country. The Central Election Commission announced that with around 25 % of the ballots counted preliminary results indicated that Vladimir Putin won the elections with slightly more than 63 % of the votes, which was predicted by exit polls almost the moment polls closed.
The Communist Party leader Gennadyi Zyuganov came in second with 17%, followed by oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov with almost 7%, and nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with about 6%. Almost 4% of the voters preferred Sergei Mironov , the leader of the Just Russia.
After the polling stations closed, speaking to an estimated crowd of 100 000 of supporters outside the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin claimed that he had won an ‘‘open and honest battle’’ and secured his ‘‘clear victory’’ over his four opponents. ‘‘I promised you we would win, and we won. Glory to Russia!’’, he added.
As a response to the allegations of falsifications during the December 2011 Duma elections, the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the installation of web cameras at all the polling stations, to a cost of about $500 million. Critics, however, said that the costly move with the web cameras was simply a cosmetic measure to dissuade criticism as Golos, independent election monitoring centre, informed that it received over 5 000 complaints of electoral violations. Likewise, the League of Voters, a civic group formed following allegations of mass fraud in the December 4 elections, said they have noted over 3 000 violations.
Aleksei Navalny, one of the opposition leaders and prolific anticorruption blogger, said that hundreds of buses were used in carousel voting (persons voting in more than one polling station) at Russia’s 91 000 polling stations.
While the government and the Central Elections Commission rejected criticism and allegations on election fraud, numerous independent monitors and observers opposed this position. And already by noon, more than 150 observers were reported to have been illegally removed by police or election officials from polling stations in Moscow, reported Rosvybory, a coalition of election observers led by Alexei Navalny.
“Russia’s presidential election was marked by unequal campaign conditions”, stated OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), adding that “conditions were clearly skewed in favour of one of the contestants”. “There were serious problems from the very start of this election. The point of elections is that the outcome should be uncertain. 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,” said Tonino Picula, the Special Co-ordinator to lead the short-term OSCE observer mission and Head of the delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
The Russian democratic community didn’t recognize the elections, and the opposition called for protests today, March 5. “A huge number of people will not recognize Putin as president and will continue to protest against him in different ways, including street protests. Those will not stop. They will only increase,” Alexei Navalny said to BBC.
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