Putin HQ Applauds Exit Poll Results
MOSCOW, March 4 (RIA Novosti, Andrew Roth) - A mixed crowd of politicians and media personalities welcomed an expected victory for Vladimir Putin Sunday night in an upbeat event at his campaign headquarters in central Moscow.
Applause filled the main hall as Elections Commissioner Vladimir Churov announced that Putin had won close to 62 percent of the vote so far.
"We expected as much," said Putin campaign chief Stanislav Govorukhin before Army General Aleksei Moiseev cut in playfully saying: "It was entirely predictable."
Despite protests in major cities in the months leading up to the elections, United Russia Deputy Sergei Markov said that there was little apprehension before this evening's announcement.
"Thank God the middle class is beginning to express themselves politically," Markov said. "But the majority must be heard. Russia needs Putin to return with his traditional style and we expect that to be made clear tonight."
Putin's nearest rival, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, took 17.7 percent, state pollster VTsIOM said.
No other candidate has so far gained more than 10 percent.
If he results of the exit polls are confirmed, Putin, 59, will be inaugurated as new president in May and will serve for six years, not four as previously.
The elections took place to the backdrop of mass demonstrations that were triggered by allegations of vote fraud in favor of Putin's United Russia party at December's parliamentary polls.
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