Vladimir Putin had an overwhelming victory and has extended his grip on Russia for another six years after in Sunday’s presidential election.
It means Putin will rule until 2024 when he will be 71 and obliged by law to step down. According to Central Election Commission data, with 99.8% of the votes counted, Putin won with 76.7%.
With no serious challenger, Putin sailed to victory against the backdrop of wall-to-wall support from state media. His closet rival, Pavel Grudinin Communist Party’s candidate, won 11.79%, while Vladimir Zhirinovsky ultra-nationalist took 5.7%. Former reality TV presenter Ksenia Sobchak was on 1.7%, while veteran liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky received just over 1% of the vote.
Alexei Navalny was barred from the race.
Putin the 65-year-old, a former KGB spy, has dominated Russian politics for 18 years and is already the country’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
He called for unity in the country in front of thousands of people assembled in below-freezing temperatures at Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin, where declared victory.
Putin said, after a colorful show of high-energy musical performances “We are a single team, I am a member of this team, and all those who cast their ballots today are members of our large national team, I see this as a sign of trust and hope, the hope of our people that we will work as hard, with the same responsibility and effectiveness as before. Thank you for being such a powerful, millions-strong team. We will definitely succeed.”
Although his victory was an inevitable conclusion, the high score is a major boost to Putin, who already enjoys sweeping powers over his country. He won with 63.6% of the votes cast in the 2012 election.
Voter turnout close to the 70% ambition of the Kremlin was put at 67.5%.
Putin cannot stand for re-election, under present Russian law. But he has not groomed a successor, prompting speculation he possibly will try to find ways to extend his power beyond this term.