At a victory celebration in downtown Moscow on Sunday night, a jubilant Putin was joined on-stage by outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as he rallied tens of thousands of supporters. With his voice cracking with emotion and his eyes moist, Putin told the feisty crowd: "I promised you we would win. And we have won. We won in an open and honest fight! We urge everyone to unite around the interests of Russia. Glory to Russia.”
While Russian political experts attest Putin’s victory to not only be legitimate but also extremely convincing, Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov, who came second in the polls, has complained of widespread voting irregularities and fraud in favour of Putin’s United Russia party.
“I cannot recognise these elections as fair, honest and worthy,” Zyuganov said. "I see no reason to congratulate anyone."
Russian political analyst Dmitry Orlov expressed that sudden and harsh statements such as Zyuganov’s are highly unusual for Communist leaders to say, especially before having taken the time to analyse the overall data.
"I hope that Zyuganov would eventually recognise the results of the polls and will continue his regular work in the State Duma as an opposition leader,” Orlov said.
“Taking into account that Putin is seeking his third presidential term, as well as the past economic downturn, intense street activity, such as protests, and the fact that Putin’s predecessor was one of his supporters…all this creates an array of factors that complicated his return - but does not make his victory any less valid,” added Orlov, who appeared on behalf of Putin in televised election debates.
Meanwhile, political scientist Pavel Svyatenkov said it was still unclear whether Russian society will recognise, nor respect, the election results.
“The most important thing is to understand whether this result will be vested with legitimacy, or it won’t be recognised by the society and the country will plunge into a smoldering political crisis for months or even years,” Svyatenkov warned.
The Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) reports these preliminary figures:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - 63.6 percent
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov - 17.18 percent
Independent candidate Mikhail Prokhorov - 7.98 percent
Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky - 6.22 percent
A Just Russia Party leader Sergei Mironov - 3.85 percent.
The CEC also reports 45,602,075 people voted for Putin, 12,318,353 for Zyuganov, 5,722,508 for Prokhorov, 4,458,103 for Zhirinovsky and 2,763,935 for Mironov.
The CEC is expected to publish the final results of the vote by March 14.