Putin Wins Russia Vote in Landslide
President Vladimir Putin easily won a second term in elections Sunday with 69 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll, confirming widespread expectations of a landslide victory. Just minutes after polls closed, a major fire erupted in a 19th-century landmark building off Red Square.
Assured of victory, Putin was looking for a powerful turnout to further strengthen his grip over Russia —- already tightened by his appointment of a loyal new Cabinet just before the vote and by December parliamentary elections that gave the main pro-Kremlin party full control over lawmaking.
Putin, who reined in Russia’s independent media following his first election in 2000, dominated the nationwide television networks before the vote. His five challengers received less coverage, adding to the widespread impression that the vote was a one-horse race.
“I voted for Putin because he is going to win anyway and what is the point in voting for someone else,” said financial inspector Yelena Chebakova, 31, one of a handful of early voters at a Moscow polling station.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was concerned with a lack of openness in Russia’s presidential election and “a level of authoritarianism creeping back” into Russian society.
But he said he did not think Russia was reverting to the hard-line ways of the former Soviet Union.
I disagree. Russia doesn’t have free elections, a free press, or the ability for opposition parties to run in any meaningful way. There is no meaningful sense in which they’re a democracy.