Putin declares victory in “obviously not free nor fair” presidential election

Putin declares victory in “obviously not free nor fair” presidential election
Official Russian vote tally gives Putin 87.15% of the vote / Central Election Commission of Russia
By bne IntelliNews March 18, 2024

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared a sweeping victory in the country's presidential election.

His celebration came before official results were announced, but following exit polls released by state-run pollsters Russian Public Opinion Research Centre and the Public Opinion Foundation, which stated that Putin had won the election with 87% of the vote, ahead of the Communist party candidate, Nikolai Kharitonov.

According to the Central Election Commission of Russia, with 80% of the votes counted, Putin’s total sat at 87.15%, with Kharitonov in second place at 4.22%.

The election, which was denounced by the United States as “obviously not free nor fair”, also took place as Russians both at home and abroad protested against Putin and Russian aggression in Ukraine. The only other candidates allowed on the ballot were from the so-called ‘systemic’ opposition, specifically allowed by the Kremlin so that the elections appear as democratic. Anti-Putin and anti-war candidates were not allowed to run, while many of the most popular opposition figures have fled the country.

Following the published opinion polls, criticism was Western leaders was swift, with accusations of authoritarianism and the lack of legitimacy in the electoral process. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, condemned the elections, calling for accountability for Putin's actions and dubbing him as “addicted to power.” Similarly, the German foreign ministry decried the elections as lacking legitimacy and denounced Putin's reliance on censorship and repression.

In his victory speech at campaign headquarters, Putin dismissed foreign criticisms of the election, stating that the West is “fighting [Russia] in an armed conflict” and seeks to contain the country’s development. His speech focused primarily on the war in Ukraine, and stated that one of his main goals in his next term would be strengthening the country’s defence capacity and military. 

The result means that Putin will serve a fifth presidential term, which will end in 2030.

Alongside the election, supporters of the killed opposition figure Alexey Navalny turned up at polling stations at 12pm, as part of a protest called “Noon against Putin,” designed to bring anti-Putin Russians together in a show of unity. Queues were even longer abroad in countries with lots of Russian émigrés, such as in London and Berlin. Many of those queuing to vote outside Russia held signs with slogans against Putin and in support of Ukraine.