Russia: The Putin Machine Rolls at the Polls

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A man walks past a rack which displays a daily newspaper with a front page about Russian President Vladimir Putin's re-election victory on March 18, on a street in Moscow, Russia March 19, 2018.

If the exit polls are accurate, this election marks Putin's strongest showing yet, slightly edging out the 71.9% he won in his 2004 reelection campaign. "And if Russian Federation is God's chosen nation, it follows that Putin is God's chosen leader".

Russian leader Vladimir Putin overwhelmingly won reelection by landslide with 76.65 percent with 99 percent of the ballots counted according to the latest official reports at 05:21 local time. The Communist Party's Pavel Grudinin came in at a distant second with 11.8%.

Other videos from Ilskhan-Yurt in Chechnya, the Primorsky region of the Far East, and elsewhere also appeared to show people stuffing votes into ballot boxes.

Near-final figures put turnout at 67.47 percent, just shy of the 70 percent the Kremlin was reported to have been aiming for before the vote.

"Conveying his compliments on Putin's success, the Prime Minister expressed the hope that under Putin's leadership, the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between India and the Russian Federation will continue to grow from strength to strength", the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

Nearly 55.5 million voters supported his candidacy in the election that took place on Sunday paving the way for Putin, 65, to lead the country until 2024 after which he is constitutionally obliged to stand down, Sputnik news agency reported. He has been Russian President since 2000, except the period from 2008 to 2012, when he was a PM.

Global fury over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in London, these allies say, is only the latest in a series of Western attempts to keep Russia down.

That included pressure on voters to fulfil their "civic duty".

In Sevastopol 90.2 percent of the voters chose Putin, while in the Republic of Crimea 92.2 percent voted for the incumbent. It's not clear what effect, if any, Navalny's call for a boycott had on the presidential race.

Addressing a rally in Moscow, Putin said the voters had "recognised the achievements of the last few years". "Let us work on this agenda together!" he said. "State propaganda started to spread the idea that Putin is the only one who can restore the greatness of Russian Federation".

As Sky pointed out, critics have suggested that election violations have taken place, such as ballot-box stuffing and forced voting.

Daria Suslina, 20, said she chose to skip the chance to vote in a presidential election for the first time in her life after getting numerous appeals to do so by text message and at work.

There were accounts of employers forcing their workers to go out and vote and then have proof that they voted. "The whole thing - the elections today - seems so artificial, I don't want to be a part of it".

In the course of election day, camera footage from polling stations broadcast on various news websites and posted on social media channels seemed to indicate instances of election fraud. Outside the polling station, a 31-year-old who identified herself by her first name and patronymic, Anna Sergeyevna, said she voted for Putin.

"I don't think he will refuse power in 2024 even if he has had enough, he is (already) visibly exhausted", said political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin. "He showed that our team is the good one". The vote was scheduled to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.

Central election commission chair Ella Pamfilova outlined to reporters Monday authorities' efforts to fight violations and hold a transparent election.

Link said that although a significant number of people turned out to vote, restrictions on their fundamental freedoms "have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine political competition".

Putin said on Sunday it was nonsense to think that Moscow would have poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain and said Moscow was ready to cooperate with London.

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