Early results show Putin projected to win Russia’s election in landslide, extending rule

Russian President Vladimir Putin is projected to win Russia’s election in a record post-Soviet landslide on Sunday, extending his rule for at least another six years, according to exit polls.

Putin clinched 87.8 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll as the polls closed Sunday from the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM). This is the highest voting percentage in Russia’s post-Soviet history, and the first official results suggest FOM’s early polls are accurate, Reuters reported Sunday.

A preliminary statement from Russia’s Central Election Commission said Putin received about 87 percent of the votes, deeming him the winner of the election, according to multiple media outlets. The commission also reportedly said voter turnout was about 75 percent nationwide.

The results are poised to hand Putin his fifth term since first being elected as Russia’s president more than 20 years ago in late 1999. The win will make Putin Russia’s longest-serving leader since Catherine the Great in 1796, surpassing the record held by former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin, Reuters reported.

Prior to Putin’s rule, the Russian Constitution allowed for presidents to serve just two successive terms of four years, but amendments made in 2008 under Putin’s rule lengthened the presidential term to six years. Amendments in 2020 removed the rule that presidents could not serve more than two terms, per Reuters.

FOM’s exit polls showed communist candidate Nikolai Kharitonov followed in second with a little under 5 percent of the vote, while Vladislav Davankov of the New People party came in third with more than 3 percent of the vote. Leonid Slutsky, an ultra-nationalist, came in fourth, per the exit polls.

Putin’s win comes as no surprise, with two other official opponents previously barred from the ballots due to opposition against the Ukraine invasion.

The election drew a massive protest on Sunday from thousands who attempted to cast ballots against Putin.

Putin has faced increasing opposition since the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in a remote Arctic penal colony last month. Navalny endorsed the scheduled protest days before he died.

The Kremlin has rejected accusations from other Russian opposition leaders and Western governments that Putin is to blame for Navalny’s death.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, participated in Sunday’s protest and vowed to continue fighting against Putin.

“Thank you very much to the wonderful, best people who stood with me today from 12 noon for a whole six hours, side by side in line at the polling station. Thank you for coming, crying, laughing. Thank you for endlessly shouting ‘Yulia, we are with you’ and ‘Navalny’ and telling me that I gave you back hope,” she wrote in a post on social media.

“In fact, of course, it’s the other way around — it’s you who give me hope that everything is not in vain, that we will fight on. Thank you to all of you who came out in every city around the world. You are my support and buttress. I love you all very much,” she added.

A spokesperson with the White House National Security Council called the results “unsurprising.”

“The elections were obviously not free nor fair given how Mr. Putin has imprisoned political opponents and prevented others from running against him,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Hill.

Updated March 18 at 4:28 p.m.

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