Vladimir Putin heading for re-election as polls open in Russian Federation

Elias Hubbard
March 18, 2018

Russian media have cited unidentified Kremlin sources as saying the government was aiming for a turnout of 70 percent, with 70 percent of the vote going to Putin.

Another term will take him to almost a quarter century in power - a longevity among Kremlin leaders second only to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

But online groups set up to record voting violations reported hundreds of problems Sunday that cast a shadow over the official turnout figures.

The majority of voters see no viable alternative to Putin: he has total dominance of the political scene and state-run television, where most people get their news, gives lavish coverage of Putin and little airtime to his rivals.

In polling station 1515 in Zelenodolsk, 800 km (500 miles) east of Moscow, five people photographed themselves voting. They arrived soon after the doors opened.

While the vote may seem like a repeat of the Putin-dominated 2012 election, this one is particularly charged with anti-Western sentiment. We would like out grandchildren to have peace and an overall good quality of life.

A survey by a state pollster this month predicted that he would get almost 70 per cent of the vote.

Web cameras have been installed at the polling stations, and Russian Federation has invited more than 1,000 observers from 86 countries and 14 global organizations to monitor the election.

The first politician in years to challenge the Kremlin's grip on power, Alexei Navalny, is barred from the race because of a corruption conviction he says was fabricated by the Kremlin.

"They're herding the whole country to the polling stations", Roizman, a rare example of an elected official opposed to the Kremlin, said in a video blog.

Many voters credit Putin, a 65-year-old former KGB spy, with standing up for Russia's interests in what they view as a hostile outside world.

"There is no intrigue".

She said those alleging the election was rigged were biased and peddling "Russophobia", echoing a line used by the Kremlin to describe Western criticism of Russian Federation. "It's degrading... We're not sheep".

Election monitors were reporting irregularities at voting stations across Russian Federation, even though election authorities were under orders to ensure that the voting was free and fair after violations marred Putin's last election in 2012.

Commission chair Ella Pamfilova told reporters that it was a DDoS, or distributed denial of service attack, tracked to computers in 15 countries, without naming them.

According to the Central Election Commission, about 110 million Russian citizens are eligible to vote, among which some 1.88 million who live overseas can vote in Russian embassies and consulates.

The statement said only diplomats would have access to Russian diplomatic institutions on Ukrainian territory during the vote "in order to avoid provocations and possible grave consequences". The only real question is whether voters will turn out in big enough numbers to hand him a convincing mandate for his fourth term - and many Russians are facing intense pressure to do so.

At a polling station in Simferopol, in the Crimea region which Russian Federation annexed from Ukraine, a couple with a child photographed themselves putting a voting slip into a ballot box.

Ukrainian leaders are also angry over Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting that has killed at least 10,000 people since 2014 continues.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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