• Ballot stuffing, coercion, gimmicks alleged
Russian President Vladimir Putin won Russia’s presidential election yesterday with almost 74 percent of the vote, according to an official exit poll, with the opposition reporting ballot stuffing and other cases of alleged fraud.
Putin, who has ruled Russia for almost two decades, stood against seven other candidates, but his most vocal critic Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot for legal reasons and the final outcome was never in doubt.
The Kremlin was hoping for high voter numbers to give greater legitimacy to Putin’s historic fourth term as Russia faces increasing isolation on the world stage over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of United States sanctions.
Social networks buzzed all day yesterday with videos, photos and firsthand accounts of voting violations in Russia’s presidential election. Election authorities said they will investigate all irregularities and annul results where needed. But the breadth of the reports was striking, and they may cast a shadow on the victory by Putin.
Video authenticated by The Associated Press showed some of the apparent irregularities. Some also were reported by observers including representatives of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Golos monitoring group and ordinary Russians.
About 107 million Russians were eligible to cast ballots and the central election commission said turnout was 60 percent, after the authorities used both the carrot and the stick to boost participation.