Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, addressing a crowd gathered outside the Kremlin today, declared: “We have gained a clear victory! We won! Glory to Russia!”
Opposition groups have called for protests following Prime Minister Putin’s winning more than 60% of the vote in the presidential election. Heightened security was present at polling stations, which is not unusual in Russia but perhaps more necessary than usual because of the turmoil in December after the parliamentary elections.
Challenging Putin’s run for United Russia was Gennady Zyuganov from the Communist Party. Zyuganov first contested the presidency against Vladimir Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin in 1996 and he has remained a fixture of presidential contests ever since. Repeating past statements following presidential contests, Zyuganov called this contest illegitimate and refused to offer congratulations to president-elect Putin. Though many decry Putin’s policies, many pensioners and those who remember the Soviet-era fondly appreciate the stability his economic initiatives have brought to Russia in the past.
The counter-argument is that this prosperity was actually unrelated to Putin’s policies and were instead the byproduct of rising commodity prices of which Russia has an abundance. Nevertheless, on-the-ground sentiment is what wins elections and, even without traditional campaigning or any attempt whatsoever to differentiate himself from an all-too-well-known cast of presidential contenders, Vladimir Putin has once again ensconced himself at the top of Kremlin for another six years. It will be interesting to see what transpires between now and the next election.