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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Final vote count gives Medvedev over 70% in presidential polls

RIA Novosti

04/03/2008 16:59 MOSCOW, March 4 (RIA Novosti) - Kremlin-backed Dmitry Medvedev received more than 70% of the vote in Russia's recent presidential elections, the Central Election Commission said on Tuesday.

With 100% of the ballots counted following Sunday's polls, current First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, 42, was reported to have won 70.28% of the vote.

The polls saw a record turnout of 69.78%, or almost 75 million voters, said the top election official, Vladimir Churov.

Medvedev's nearest rival, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, took 17.72% of the vote. Nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky received 9.34%, and the leader of the pro-Western Democratic Party, Andrei Bogdanov, - 1.29%.

Voting took place in a total of 140 countries, spanning 18 time zones, with the first Russians casting their ballots in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, and the last on the western coast of the U.S.

Europe's main election watchdog, the OSCE, boycotted the polls over restrictions it said were imposed by Russia. The head of the PACE monitoring group said Sunday's vote was a "reflection of the will of the electorate, whose democratic potential unfortunately has not been tapped."

Andreas Gross also said unequal access to media put into question the overall fairness of the vote, adding the election "repeats most of the flaws seen in the parliamentary elections last December."

The refusal by the Russian election authorities to register a number of candidates from Russia's opposition due to 'irregularities' in their applications was also cited as a cause for concern by critics of the polls, as was the lack of media coverage for candidates given permission to stand.

Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky have hinted that they may contest the election results in the courts.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was also critical, saying that "The outcome of the elections was predetermined by the popularity of Vladimir Putin, who backed Dmitry Medvedev and agreed to be premier if he won."

Medvedev was publicly backed by President Vladimir Putin as his successor in mid-December, and was later nominated by the ruling United Russia party as a presidential candidate.

Putin later announced that he would take up an offer by Medvedev to become prime minister if his 'heir' was elected president.

Russian election officials said that the polls had taken place without serious violations.

Medvedev said on Sunday his presidency would be a "direct continuation" of the policies of the man who had backed him to lead Russia, and his future work in tandem with Putin would "become a positive factor in the development of our country."

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