MOSCOW, March 19. /TASS/. Russia’s incumbent head of state Vladimir Putin has secured a victory in the first round of the presidential election held on Sunday.
According to the Russian Central Election Commission, with 99.84% of the ballots counted, Putin has garnered 76.66% of the vote. He has won more votes than he did in the 2012 election (63.6%) and beat his own record set in 2004 (71.31%).
The newly elected president thanked the Russian people for trusting him and promised to work as hard as before yet achieve better results.
Director of the Lenin State Farm Pavel Grudinin, nominated by the Communist Party of Russia, came in second with 11.80%, while leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovsky took third palce with 5.66%.
TV personality and socialite Ksenia Sobchak (nominated by the Civil Initiative party) clinched 1.67% of the vote.
Next are head of the Yabloko Party’s federal political committee Grigory Yavlinsky (1.04%), chairman of the Party of Growth and Russian Presidential Envoy for Entrepreneurs’ Rights Boris Titov (0.76%), Maxim Suraikin, nominated by the Communists of Russia party (0.68%) and head of the Russian People’s Union party Sergei Baburin (0.65%).
Vladimir Putin has announced plans to meet with all other presidential candidates. At a meeting with members of his election team, he said that it was important "to pool the efforts of all people, no matter which candidate they voted for."
According to Putin, he was grateful "to voters for the choice they made and the trust they have shown," "for their evaluation of the work done in the recent years and the hope they obviously have since they expect us - my expanded team and me, your humble servant - to work as hard as before yet achieve better results."
After the results proving Putin’s election win were announced, he addressed a concert rally dubbed: Russia. Sevastopol. Crimea, that was taking place at Manezhnaya Square in downtown Moscow, and thanked his supporters. "You are our team, and I am a member of your team. All who cast their ballots are in our big national team," the president said.
While addressing members of his election campaign team, Putin mentioned his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly, reiterating that the country needed to achieve a development breakthrough. "We can do that, we have achieved a level where it is possible to make a breakthrough," he stressed. "We must take advantage of this historic opportunity and our achievements in every field in order to do that. But of course, people need to understand what we will be doing," Putin indicated.
Pavel Grudinin, who was nominated by the Communist Party of Russia and ran for president for the first time, has not yet commented on the voting outcome, however, experts say that his second place is a good result for any newcomer.
Veteran presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he was disappointed with his election result. "I am as negative about the recent election as I have been for the past 30 years as far as elections go," he said. Zhirinovsky criticized the presidential race as lacking “equal conditions” for all contenders. According to him, "athletes and performers were all supporting the same candidate, there were no equal conditions for candidates and all the scandals were staged."
Ksenia Sobchak, who represented the Civil Initiative party, pointed to the small number of irregularities recorded during the election. "From a legal standpoint, the election was transparent," she said. According to her, she was going to go on a short vacation after the election though she planned to carry on with her political career. She said that the congress of a new party - the Party of Change - would be announced in late May.
Another veteran politician, Grigory Yavlinsky, who represented the Yabloko party, said that the presidential election had not seemed real. "It was perfectly clear to us that this procedure had little in common with a real election as the media did not provide equal coverage, there were spoilers and administrative pressure," he said. Yavlinsky added that his major goal as presidential candidate had been "demanding changes" and "pushing for a change in policies." "We have conducted a fine election campaign - I have seen thousands of young people who believe in another kind of future. I am really happy that I had a chance to meet many of them, as they collected signatures, participated in the campaign and supported us," he noted.
Presidential Envoy for Entrepreneurs’ Rights Boris Titov, nominated by the Party of Growth, was dissatisfied with the election result but hopeful that that his economic program would serve as a basis for the country’s economic development.
Maxim Suraikin, nominated by the Communists of Russia party, said he would have been satisfied with his election result if he had garnered over 50% of the vote. His election team opposed the official election outcome, claiming that its candidate had actually gained from 1.5% to 2.8% of the popular vote.
Sergei Baburin, nominated by the Russian People’s Union party said he had no doubts about the convincing victory of incumbent President Vladimir Putin. "The reality is that most of the votes went to the incumbent president," he stated. "I have no doubts about that, since even Theresa May [British Prime Minister - TASS] worked for Putin’s team, helping to unite all swing voters around him," Baburin noted.
According to the CEC’s preliminary data, voter turnout has exceeded 67%.
Neither the CEC nor the Interior Ministry recorded any serious irregularities that could have influenced the election outcome. "If we separate real complaints received by the CEC from false ones, than I saw few real complaints," CEC First Deputy Chairman Nikolai Bulayev said, adding that the CEC "has not received any serious complaints from political parties."
The Russian Presidential Human Rights Council’s election monitoring group did not record any serious irregularities, its chief Mikhail Fedotov said.
Only one significant incident has been reported so far, which occurred in Lyubertsy, in the Moscow region, where a local election commission decided to annul the voting’s results over ballot stuffing. Two commission members have been suspended and may face criminal charges.
Residents of Crimea, which reunited with Russia in 2014, cast their ballots in the Russian presidential election for the first time. More than 40 international observers from 20 countries were accredited to monitor the Crimean vote.
While addressing a press conference in the Crimean city of Simferopol, the observers said the vote was an example of a "true democracy."
Finnish human rights defender Johan Beckman said the observers had not seen any irregularities, they had only seen true democracy. He added that in his view, Crimea was the most democratic place on earth.
According to him, the Crimean vote was as transparent as possible and successful. He pointed out that the West’s provocations and attempts to interfere in the political processes in Crimea had failed.
No serious incidents happened during the vote in the Russian presidential election in foreign countries, but in Ukraine the vote was actually disrupted. Only diplomats had a chance to cast their ballots as law enforcement officials and radical nationalists blocked other Russian citizens from entering the Russian embassy in Kiev, as well as the consulate generals in Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa and Lvov.
On March 16, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced that "security arrangements at Russian diplomatic missions in Ukraine will not allow access to these facilities for Russian citizens seeking to cast their votes."
Overseas voter turnout in the Russian presidential election was unprecedentedly high, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. Nonetheless, she stated that the West’s attempts at influencing the outcome of the Russian presidential vote were obvious and unprecedented.
"We focused on the information field as the West’s flak about our election was obvious and unprecedented," she said. "We expected they would be saying that the vote was non-transparent or something of the kind. So even at polling stations at embassies we focused on informational support," Zakharova added.
According to her, special attention was paid to arranging the vote in Syria. "There are currently our military servicemen and experts in Syria, so there was a need to provide them with a possibility to cast their ballots. An early voting took place there," the Russian diplomat said.