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Putin wins disputed poll

March 5, 2012

Vladimir Putin has claimed victory in presidential elections after appearing before tens of thousands of chanting supporters in the capital, Moscow. Election monitors say the polls were tainted by widespread violations.

Vladimir Putin addresses supporters during a rally near the Kremlin
Image: Reuters

Russian leader Vladimir Putin scored a first-round knockout in the country’s presidential elections, garnering more than 64 percent of the votes early on Monday.

Opposition supporters have claimed that election fraud took place, calling for protesters to take to the streets.

With some 65 percent of votes counted, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov was in second place with 17 percent, ahead of independent businessman Mikhail Prokhorov with 7 percent.

More than 100,000 supporters of Putin rallied outside the Kremlin to celebrate his victory.

"We have won an open and honest battle," Putin told cheering crowds outside the Kremlin walls, with tears visible in his eyes. "I promised you we would win, and we won. Glory to Russia!"

Nationalist candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky had scored 6 percent of the vote, with the leader of "A Just Russia" party, Sergei Mironov, in last place with 3.8 percent.

Members of the local electoral commission empty ballot boxes after the close of voting in a polling station in Russia's far-eastern port of Vladivostok
Vladivastok's polling stations wer among the first to closeImage: Reuters

Opposition groups said they were planning a rally in Moscow on Monday to protest the election results.
In the troubled Caucasus region of Dagestan, three policemen were reportedly killed in an attack on a polling station after voting came to an end. Officials said three people in masks stormed the polling station an hour after it closed, and that one of the attackers was also killed in the gunfight.

Vote-rigging claims

Tens of thousands of monitors were observing the election on Sunday, with many posting evidence of voting irregularities.

Independent election watchdog Golos published an interactive online map with over 3,700 suspected violations.

"These elections are not free ... we will not recognize the president as legitimate," said Mikhail Kasyanov, who was Vladimir Putin's first prime minister and later went into opposition.

Opposition parties said they saw widespread evidence of electoral fraud. On their websites they published accounts of ballot-stuffing and individual voters casting ballots at multiple polling stations.

Some voters in Vladivostock arrived at their polling stations only to find that their ballots had already been cast, one account said.

Vladimir Putin Victorious in Russia's Presidential Election

Putin's campaign chief, Stanislav Govorukhin, hailed the vote as "the cleanest election in Russia's entire history," adding that "the violations our rivals and the opponents of our president will now speak of are laughable.

Throughout the day, Central Election Commission Chairman Vladimir Churkov had made statements saying the election was running smoothly and dismissed allegations of foul play.

Turnout was 65.3 percent,
down from 70 percent in the previous presidential election in 2008.

Putin served as president from 2000-2008, stepping aside due to term limits. His protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, then assumed the presidency and Putin became premier. Medvedev is expected to be named prime minister in the wake of Putin's win.

dfm, rc /ncy (AFP, dpa, AP)