Vladimir Putin Wins Russian Presidential Election According To Exit Polls; Wide Spread Fraud Also Alleged
Moscow, Russia -
Prime Minister and former president Vladimir Putin has won the Russian Presidential Elections in Russia today according to the VTsIOM polling agency and by the FOM opinion survey, which both showed in exit polls the Putin has received about 58% of the vote.
But this probable win has not come with out widespread claims of fraud, voter bussing, and other irregularities that could lead to Putin's win being called illegitimate, causing more protests and unrest.
Putin previously held the post of president but was forced out due to term limits and rolled into the newly created position of Prime Minister where he continued to wield power. He is a former KGB spy chief and enjoys strong support from the security services like the FSB (equivalent to the FBI), and the United Russia party.
Some claims that appeared to be real included bussing many voters from one polling station to another, document fraud, ballot stuffing and destruction of some official ballot results.
Golos, Russia's leading independent elections watchdog, said it received numerous reports of "carousel voting," in which busloads of voters are driven around to cast ballots multiple times.
The opposition is gearing up for a massive rally in downtown Moscow on Monday. "These elections are not free ... that's why we'll have protests tomorrow. We will not recognize the president as legitimate," said Mikhail Kasyanov, who was Putin's first prime minister before going into opposition.
So far the official Central Election Commission has not commented on any claims of voting fraud.
"Putin is a brave and persistent man who can resist the U.S. and EU pressure," said Anastasia Lushnikova, a 20-year old student who voted for Putin in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.
Putin himself has dismissed claims of fraud saying it has been the work of the United States working with a minority of urban elites working at Western behest to weaken Russia.
Time reports: Putin has promised that the vote would be fair, and the authorities apparently have sought to take off the steam out of the protest movement by allowing more observers to monitor the vote. Tens of thousands of Russians, most of them politically active for the first time, had volunteered to be election observers, receiving training on how to recognize vote-rigging and record and report violations. Golos said monitors have recorded fewer obvious violations than during the December election, but they still believe that violations are extensive. This time, election officials are using more complicated and subtle methods, said Golos deputy director Grigory Melkonyants.