Exit polls have Putin winning almost three quarters of the vote, meaning he will maintain power until at least 2024.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on March 19, 2018

He has ruled Russia for almost two decades, and Vladimir Putin will now add another six years to his reign, after recording a comprehensive presidential election victory on Sunday.

With the exit polls projecting him to win 74% of the vote, and his nearest competitor Pavel Grudinin (Communist Party) on track for a 13.2% share, Putin made a victory speech to the crowd gathered at Manezh square next to the Kremlin.

“I see in this trust and hope, the hope of our people that we will work with the same intensity, with the same sense of responsibility and with even greater results,” Putin said.

“Thank you for the fact that we have such a powerful, millions-strong team. Success awaits us.”

Putin has been either prime minister or president of the world’s largest country since 1999. And having now secured a record fourth term, he will be 71 by the time of the next election in 2024.

How it became a one-horse race

The former KGB colonel was always a strong favourite to retain his grip on power, particularly once his main rival and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred from challenging over an embezzlement conviction.

Navalny and his supporters maintain the fraud charges were politically motivated, as his anti-corruption stance made him a legitimate threat.

“What we saw was a telegram from the Kremlin saying that they consider me, my team and those people whose views I express too dangerous to allow us into the electoral race,” Navalny said in the courtroom after the verdict in February 2017.

“This verdict will be overturned. I have the full right under the constitution to participate in elections, and I will do so. I will continue to represent the interests of people who want Russia to be a normal, honest, not corrupt country.”

He implored Russian citizens to boycott the “fake” vote, and with an estimated voter turnout of 63% (lower than in 2012), he seems to have had an impact.

Victory over the West

Whether it’s alleged interference in the US 2016 presidential election, United Nations condemnation over its backing of President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian forces, or the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in the UK, relations between Russia and the West haven’t been this grim since the Cold War.

The Kremlin has regularly suggested the West ran a campaign to unsettle the election, and Putin’s allies see the triumph as proof the Russian people are not swayed by propaganda.

“I think that in the United States and Britain they’ve understood they cannot influence our elections,” Senator Igor Morozov said on state television.

Speaker of the upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko added, “Our elections have proved once again… that it’s not possible to manipulate our people.”

“People came together. No other country in the world has such open and transparent elections.”