Putin 'Elected Russian President'
March 04, 2012
Exit polls show that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has won today's presidential election with nearly 60 percent of the vote, Russian polling agencies say.
The Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) predicts Putin won 59.3 percent of the vote, while the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion gives him 58.3 percent.
FOM predicts Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov will place second with 18.2 percent, followed by oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov with 9.6 percent, Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia head Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 7.4 percent, and A Just Russia's Sergei Mironov with 4.3 percent.
The polls were released as soon as the last polling stations closed in Russia's western Kaliningrad Oblast at 9 p.m. Moscow time.
Unofficially, turnout was 56.3 percent.
Some of the thousands of monitors who volunteered to observe the election posted what they described as evidence of fraud on the Internet, but the Central Election Committee head Vladimir Churov denied any allegations of foul play.
Since Putin's United Russia party won parliamentary elections in December, there have been several antigovernment protests across Russia involving tens of thousands of people.
Protesters complained of vote rigging in the December poll and rejected allowing Putin to serve another term as president.
His supporters, who have also held massive rallies for Putin since last December, say Putin is the best guarantor of security and stability for Russia.
A Moscow voter, who identified himself by his Christian name, Sergei, told RFE/RL's Moscow correspondent, Tom Balmforth, that he voted for Putin because he was "the only satisfactory candidate."
Natalya, a pensioner, claimed she voted for Prokhorov and had abandoned her former approval of Putin.
"There is the hope that something will change in the country," she said. "No one person should be allowed to run the country for so long.”
Putin cast his ballot at Moscow's Academy of Sciences saying he had come to the polling site "straight from working out."
Earlier, the Ukrainian feminist group, Femen, staged an anti-Putin protest at the same polling station by trying to steal the ballot box. They were quickly overpowered and apprehended by security officials.
'There Are Cops Everywhere'
To prevent any demonstrations from breaking out on election day, Russian authorities deployed more than 380,000 police across the country.
RFE/RL's correspondent Balmforth reported a "noticeable" police presence in central Moscow.
"There are cops everywhere," he said. "There were about 30 Interior Ministry trucks and buses stationed at Triumphalnaya [Square], there were probably over a dozen at Pushkinskaya, and there were a further eight outside City Hall."
Putin was president from 2000 to 2008 but was constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term.
Russian news agencies report that there were 685 accredited election observers, 219 from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Over 90 thousand webcams have also been installed at polling stations across the country. although there have been complaints that many of these surveillance devices were not actually working.
Russia's Minister of Communications Igor Shchegolev said the webcams logged more than 1 million visits in the first hour after polling stations opened in the eastern part of the country.
Bomb Scare At Monitoring Center
In related news, Moscow police ordered the evacuation of a downtown club where independent and opposition activists had set up an alternative vote-counting center for the presidential election.
Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomarev, of the A Just Russia Party, said police ordered the evacuation because of an anonymous bomb threat.
He said the order to evacuate came just as the center was beginning to process preliminary results from closed polling stations in the Far East and that police had ordered activists to leave their computers in the building.
The alternative vote-counting center was set up by the independent League of Voters in conjunction with the Communist Party and A Just Russia.
Security forces on March 3 ordered the activists to abandon another site because they said it was too close to the Central Election Commission
With reporting by AP, Intefax, ITAR-TASS, and dpa
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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