Monday, July 22, 2024

Vladimir Putin wins the 2024 Russian presidential election



President Vladimir Putin has tightened his grip on the country he has ruled since the turn of the 20th century, with results Russia The stage-managed election signals an expected big win for the Kremlin leader in what was a foregone conclusion.

The Central Election Commission reported on Monday that with 99.8% of the votes counted, Putin received 87.3% of the votes in a record turnout of 77.5%.

The result means Putin will rule until at least 2030, when he will be 77 years old. He is the longest-serving leader in Russia since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and will secure his third full decade in power.

With most opposition candidates dead, imprisoned, exiled, or barred from running – and with the opposition effectively banned in Russia since it launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 – Putin has faced no credible challenge to his rule.

The candidates allowed to oppose Putin have been carefully selected by the Kremlin. His closest competitor, Nikolai Kharitonov of the Communist Party, received only 4.3% of the votes counted.

The result was inevitable – Putin's spokesman said last year that the vote was “not truly democratic” but rather “expensive bureaucracy” – But the election ritual is crucial to the Kremlin as a means of asserting Putin's power.

This ritual was held every four years, before the law was changed in 2008 to extend presidential terms to six years. Subsequent constitutional changes eliminated presidential term limits, potentially allowing Putin to remain in power until 2036.

In a victory lap at his election headquarters late Sunday, Putin said that the elections had “strengthened” national unity and that there were “many tasks ahead” for Russia as it continued its path of confrontation with the West.

“No matter how much anyone tries to intimidate us, no matter how much they try to suppress us, our will, our awareness, no one has been able to do something like this in history, and it will not happen now and it will not happen” in the future. He said: “Never.”

Putin's fiercest opponent has died in recent months.

After leading a failed uprising in June, Wagner's mercenary chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed two months later after his plane crashed while traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The Kremlin denied any involvement in Prigozhin's death.

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Elections were held a month later Alexei NavalnyPutin's most powerful opponent, died in a penal colony in the Arctic. Navalny's family and supporters accused Putin of responsibility for his death, which the Kremlin rejected.

In his speech on Sunday evening, Putin unprecedentedly broke with his tradition of not pronouncing Navalny's name, discussed his death and confirmed discussions about… Possible prisoner exchange With the participation of an opposition figure. Navalny's allies had previously claimed he was “days away” from being exchanged before his death.

“As for Mr. Navalny – yes, he has died. It is always a sad event. There were other cases where people died in prison. Didn't this happen in the United States? He said: It happened, and not just once.

Putin said a few days before Navalny's death, he was informed of a proposal to exchange him for prisoners held in Western countries. “The person who spoke to me had not yet finished his sentence when I said I agreed,” Putin said. “But unfortunately that happened [Navalny’s death] It happened. There was only one condition, which was that we replace him so that he does not return. Let him sit there. Well, things like this happen. There's nothing you can do about it, that's life.”

Ibrahim Norouzi/AFP

Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny's widow, waits in line near the Russian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, around noon local time, March 17, 2024.

Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, had urged Russians to participate en masse to show opposition on Sunday, the last day of voting across Russia's 11 time zones and 88 federal districts. In the lead-up, the Kremlin warned against unauthorized gatherings.

A CNN team in Moscow watched the line outside the polling station grow quickly at midday as part of the so-called Anti-Putin demonstrations. Inspired by Navalny. A woman waiting in line told CNN: “This is the first time in my life I have seen a line for an election.” When asked why she came at that hour, she replied: “You know why. I think everyone in this queue knows why.”

Similar protests were held at Russian embassies across Europe, with large crowds gathering at noon in London, Paris and elsewhere. Navalnaya attended a demonstration in Berlin, waiting in line with other voters in a show of opposition.

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The election was also marred by more visible acts of defiance. As of Saturday, Russia had filed at least 15 criminal cases against people Pour the dye into the ballot boxesThey set fires or threw Molotov cocktails at polling stations. Ella Pamfilova, head of Russia's Central Election Commission, said 29 polling stations in 20 regions of Russia were targeted, including eight arson attempts.

More than 60 Russians were arrested in at least 16 cities on the final day of voting, according to the independent human rights group OVD-Info.


Voters wait in line at a polling station in Saint Petersburg, Russia, at noon local time, March 17, 2024.

Russia also held presidential elections in four Ukrainian regions it annexed during its comprehensive invasion. Ukraine said the election violated international law and would be classified as “null and void.”

The authorities installed by Russia in occupied Ukraine reported that the turnout rate in the elections exceeded 80%. But evidence of voter coercion has emerged. Russian Telegram channels showed Russian soldiers accompanying election officials as they went house to house to collect votes.

A video from Luhansk showed an elderly woman inside her apartment filling out an electoral paper and placing it in the ballot box, while a man in military uniform stood over her with a rifle slung over his chest.

After the preliminary results were published on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Putin as a “dictator” and the Russian elections as “fake.”

“It is clear to everyone in the world that this individual, as has often happened in history, is sick of power and is doing everything in his power to rule for life. There is no evil that he would not commit to prolong his personal power. There is no one in the world who is immune from this,” Zelensky said. .

The elections come after more than two years of war, which has cost the Russian people heavy costs. The Kremlin keeps casualty numbers secret, but Western officials believe that more than 300,000 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded on the battlefields in Ukraine.

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In response to a journalist's question on Sunday about French President Emmanuel Macron In his statements last month that he did not rule out sending European forces to Ukraine, Putin said such a move would be “one step away from World War III.”

Dmitry Lovetsky/AFP

A man leaves the voting booth at a polling station in St. Petersburg, March 16, 2024.

Putin's invasion has reshaped the world's post-Cold War geopolitical axes, leading the West to treat Russia as a pariah state after decades of friendlier relations. The war also shrunk Putin's world, after the International Criminal Court last year issued an arrest warrant against him on charges of committing war crimes in Ukraine, obligating more than 100 countries to arrest the Russian leader if he sets foot on their territory.

But the war also opened new horizons for Russia, which sought to forge new partnerships and strengthen existing ones. Russia's relations with China, North Korea, and Iran – which did not condemn the invasion – have deepened, and Putin has tried to court countries of the Global South while offering a vision of a world not led by the West.

Putin's critics accuse him of manufacturing foreign policy problems to distract from his government's inability to solve Russia's myriad internal problems, from low life expectancy to widespread poverty.

While Russia survived Penalties Better than expected, the conflict imposed by Western countries distorted their economy by absorbing resources into military production. Inflation rose, basic goods like eggs became unaffordable, and tens of thousands of young professionals left the country.

Gauging public opinion is difficult in authoritarian countries like Russia, where watchdog organizations operate under strict surveillance and many are afraid to criticize the Kremlin.

But the Levada Center, a non-governmental polling organization, says that nearly half of Russians strongly support the war in Ukraine, and more than three-quarters somewhat support the war in Ukraine. Levada also reports that Putin's approval ratings exceed 80% – a figure almost unknown among Western politicians, and a significant increase over the three years before the all-out invasion of Ukraine.