Putin Declares Victory In Russian Presidential Vote
March 04, 2012
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has claimed victory and shed a tear after polls closed in Russia's presidential election.
Putin told a rally of supporters in Moscow that he achieved a "clean victory" as he and President Dmitry Medvedev appeared before an estimated 100,000 supporters in Moscow's Manezh Square.
A career KGB agent and two-term presidency from late 1999 to 2008, Putin said he was not ashamed to show that he was moved.
"Thank you everybody who said 'Yes' to a great Russia. I once asked you if we will win. We have won!" Putin said. "We have won in honest and fair battle. But those were not only the elections of Russia's president. That was a very important test for all of us, for all our people."
The Central Election Commission announced that with 25 percent of ballots counted, preliminary results indicated that Putin won the election with slightly more than 63 percent of the vote.
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov is in second with 17.32 percent, followed by oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov and nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with about 7.35 percent each.
A Just Russia's Sergei Mironov has 3.67 percent.
Medvedev told demonstrators that Putin's victory was "needed by all of us, needed by our country, needed by every one of us."
"We will not hand that victory over to anyone," he added.
Communist leader Zyuganov told journalists that the election was "crooked" and "absolutely unfair," adding that they cannot be considered legitimate.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said there are "considerable doubts" about the whether the announced results "reflect the real mood of society."
Election officials, members of the ruling United Russia party, and Putin's campaign staff have praised the conduct of the election and have slammed opposition activists for sowing seeds of doubt about the electoral process.
Putin's campaign manager, Duma Deputy Stanislav Govorukhin, slammed the "open slander on the part of the systemic and non-systemic opposition," claiming it was particularly offensive to hear complaints from the leaders of parties represented in the State Duma.
"[Violations are] a mere fraction of 1 percent," he said. "In any civilized country such an election would be considered fair and valid."
However, opposition figures and independent monitors claim there have been thousands of reports of violations, including numerous reports of ballot-box stuffing and so-called carousel voting -- when voters cast ballots repeatedly at different polling stations.
Sergei Mitrokhin, head of the liberal Yabloko party, told Interfax that because of the large number of reported election violations, "it is hard to acknowledge the election as legitimate."
'Another Wave Of Protests'
Earlier on March 4, former Prime Minister and opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov also called the legitimacy of the election into question.
"We will not recognize the president as a legitimate president, as the president of all Russians," he said. "And we did not recognize the Duma, which doesn't represent the political views and doesn't represent the people of Russia."
Kasyanov predicted that the poll will be followed by a wave of mass protests similar to what was seen following the December 2011 parliamentary elections, which critics alleged were fraudulent.
"Tomorrow [March 5] that new stage starts and tomorrow another wave of protests [will start] against what's going on in the country and we will demand early elections."
Metals magnate Prokhorov, who is effectively tied for third with Zhirinovsky, told journalists on March 4 that he will not consider any offer of a government post and he intends to form his own political party.
"No matter what the result is, I think we have won," he said, "because after this election the most active, thinking, caring people will begin forming a new political force."
With reporting by ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and AFP
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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