Putin casts his vote in Russian presidential elections

Lester Mason
March 19, 2018

There were widespread reports of forced voting Sunday, efforts to make Russian Federation appear to be a robust democracy.

Most people who spoke to AFP said they voted for Putin, praising him for lifting the country out of the post-Soviet quagmire. Asked by a Reuters reporter why, one of the group, a young woman, said: "What do you mean why?"

But Navalny charged that the poll has been staged and voter numbers rigged.

State-run pollsters predict Putin will take just under 70% of the vote, with the independent Levada Centre - branded a "foreign agent" - barred from releasing any research related to the election.

Election commission chief Ella Pamfilova also said officials around the country are taking quick measures in response to claims of violations.

She said officials quickly sealed a ballot box in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don where ballot stuffing was reported.

Mr. Putin is popular and expected to win big, the only question being how many voters will participate in a hollow exercise unlikely to bring any significant change.

Putin will personally choose revenge measures to punish Britain in the wake of the spy poison attack.

There is no meaningful opposition in the running, and Putin's fiercest political opponent, Alexei Navalny, has been barred from competing.

But Navalny, who risks 30 days in jail for organising illegal protests, urged a boycott.

Russians head to the polls today (Mar 18) in elections set to hand President Vladimir Putin a historic fourth Kremlin term, as the country faces increasing isolation over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of USA sanctions.

With Russia's economy under pressure from United States and European Union sanctions over the Ukrainian conflict, Putin has been seeking to persuade wealthy Russians to repatriate overseas assets that may exceed US$1 trillion (NZ$1.37t).

In his first public comments on the poisoning, Putin on Sunday referred to the allegations against Russian Federation as "nonsense".

Russian officials denounced both cases as efforts to interfere in the Russian election.

Worldwide election monitors will be on hand and there's every reason to think that Putin will win, within the bounds of the contest, legitimately and overwhelmingly.

His popularity soared after Russian Federation annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and his ratings still top 80%, buttressed by flattering coverage of his activities by state-controlled media amid bitter showdowns with the West. But Mr Putin's popularity remained strong, apparently buttressed by nationalist pride.

"Another six years of slavery", said a piece of paper made up to look like a ballot which was spotted on a Moscow street-in an apparent reference to Putin's next term. Just weeks before the election, he announced that Russian Federation has developed advanced nuclear weapons capable of evading missile defenses.

At home, he will be faced with how to groom a successor or devise a strategy to circumvent term limits, how to drive diversification in an economy still highly dependent on oil and gas and how to improve medical care and social services in regions far removed from the modern glitter of Moscow.

Authorities struggled against voter apathy, putting many of Russia's almost 111 million voters under intense pressure to cast ballots.

Yevgeny, a 43-year-old mechanic voting in central Moscow, said he briefly wondered whether it was worth voting.

Authorities have pulled out all the stops to ensure a huge turnout, offering food discount vouchers and prizes for the best selfies taken at polling stations after a sexually-charged online campaign.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a youth forum ahead of his country's elections on March 18.

Authorities were also appealing to patriotic feelings by holding the vote on the anniversary of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Polls show that most Russians see the takeover of that Black Sea peninsula as a major achievement despite subsequent Western sanctions.

"Who am I voting for?"

Casting his ballot in Moscow, Putin said he would be pleased with "any" result that gave him the right to continue serving as president. "The others, it's a circus".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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