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MOSCOW, March 26. /TASS/. Fifteen years ago Vladimir Putin was elected to his first term as Russian President.
By March 2000, Putin, who was 47 at the time, had been on top state position for more than six months: he was appointed prime minister in August 1999 and following Boris Yeltsin’s ‘New Year’ resignation, became Russia’s first acting president from December 31, 1999.
Initially, presidential elections in Russia were to be held in June but after Yeltsin’s resignation early elections were appointed for March 2000. The post was contended by 11 candidates. Notably, most of Putin’s rivals at the 2000 election campaign are still in politics this or that way: Gennady Zyuganov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Aman Tuleyev, Grigory Yavlinsky, Ella Pamfilova and others.
Putin defeated them all in the first round of voting with 52.94% of the vote. He was followed by the Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who scored 29% Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the Yabloko party, was third with only 5.8% of votes.
Those almost 53% of votes were a good advance he would justify by meeting his voters’ expectations. In 2004, we scored already 71.31% of the vote, and 63.6% — in 2012.
Now, after 15 years in top echelons of power, Putin’s electoral ratings are sky high. According to the February poll conducted by the Public Opinion Fund, 74% of the polled said they would vote for Putin. Putin’s presidential approval rating is still higher: as many as 88% of Russians approve his job as the head of state, according to the March 13 poll by the All-Russian Public Opinion Centre (VCIOM).
Those elections 15 years ago were special. TASS said back then, "Today, Russia is electing a president who will lead it into the third millennium." After the turbulent and troublesome 1990s, Russia needed a resolute and efficient leader. People hoped that reforms would ultimately improve their lives, that law and order would finally be established in the country. And it was Putin, who was sweepingly gaining popularity as prime minister and acting president, people pinned their hopes on.
In the morning on March 26, 2000, Putin said at a polling station at the Institute of Chemical Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences that he had cast his vote "for Russia’s future." He refrained from speaking about his chances. "One should respect his rivals," he said back then.
But after the very first results of vote counting were announced it became clear he was leading the race, although a runoff election was not ruled out at first. Late on that day, Dmitry Medvedev, a deputy chief of the presidential administration and head of Putin’s elections headquarters at that time, only hinted at a chance of Putin’s winning in the first round. By two at night, after counting half of protocols, Putin eventually surpassed the 50-percent threshold. At ten in the morning on March 27, the then chairman of the Russian Election Commission, Alexander Veshnyakov, declared Putin’s election as president.
Next presidential elections are to be held in three years, in 2018. Under the Russian constitution, Putin may run for another six-year term. Not long ago, he gave to understand that it was too early to look that further. "It is necessary to work hard in the interests of Russian citizens and based on the results and judging by the moods in society it will be possible to decide who will take part in elections in 2018," he told a news conference last December.
On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Putin’s being elected president, TASS has launched a project that put together various answers to the question "Who are you, Mr. Putin?"