Russia's Central Election Commission said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin won re-election with 76.67 percent of the vote in a field of eight candidates. That was a record-high number for Putin, who won his third term in 2012 with 63.3 percent. In second place was communist Pavel Grudinin, with 11.78 percent, followed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky (5.66 percent) and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak (1.68 percent), the only one of the candidates to openly criticize Putin.
The candidate most likely to do well against Putin, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running because of a questionable disqualifying conviction. Election observers reported widespread ballot stuffing and unusually intense pressure on voters to participate in the election. "Our elections have proved once again ... that it's not possible to manipulate our people," said Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of Russia's upper house. "People came together. No other country in the world has such open and transparent elections." Peter Weber
Thousands of Russians took to the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities across the country on Sunday to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government's restriction of candidates in the upcoming March 18 presidential election. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who called for the protests, was arrested en route to the Moscow demonstration; he was released Sunday night while prosecutors reportedly prepare charges for organizing unauthorized protests. Navalny wants people to boycott the election, which Putin is all but guaranteed to win.
Hours before Navalny's arrest, police in Moscow raided his headquarters in the middle of a live video transmission, detaining one anchor, Dmitri Nizovtsev, and Navalny's Moscow coordinator, Nikolai Lyaskin, The Associated Press reports, citing Russian media. Some 257 people were arrested in the demonstrations nationwide, according to the monitoring group OVD-Info. Navalny has been barred from running in the election due to a fraud conviction widely seen as politically engineered. His arrest and the police raid of his studio — one anchor said police used a power grinder to break into the studio, claiming there was a bomb threat — were captured on video.
Some Republican allies of President Trump, like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), condemned Navalny's arrest and the crackdown on demonstrators. Trump and his White House have not yet released or tweeted out a statement on the protests. Michael McFaul, a recent U.S. ambassador to Russia, offered to write one for Trump, using Trump's tweeted condemnation of Iran's protest crackdown a month ago as a template.
Mr. President, let me do a litte staff work for you. Tweet: "Many reports of peaceful protests by Russian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption... Russian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #RussiaProtests" https://t.co/iLJJpIBOeo
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) January 29, 2018
The protesters on Sunday tended to be young, with many of them born after Putin rose to uninterrupted power in 1999. Peter Weber
On Monday, Russia's Central Election Commission voted unanimously to bar opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president in the March 18 election, clearing Russian President Vladimir Putin of any significant rivals in his bid for a fourth term. Navalny, an anti-corruption activist, would have needed special permission to run because he was convicted of fraud, in a case widely seen as political retribution for opposing Putin and highlighting corruption in his government.
After the decision, Navalny called on his supporters to boycott the election. "The procedure that we're invited to take part is not an election," he said in a prerecorded message. "Only Putin and the candidates he has hand-picked are taking part in it," and "going to the polls right now is to vote for lies and corruption." Putin was widely expected to win, with approval ratings above 80 percent, but the Kremlin is worried that voter apathy and low turnout will undermine his victory.
Putin will face other candidates — election regulars Grigory Yavlinsky, a liberal, and the ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, plus Communist nominee Pavel Grudinin and TV host Ksenia Sobchak — in March. Sobchak, 36, criticized Navalny's boycott call, saying that elections are "the only way to change something, and boycotting them is inefficient and harmful." Peter Weber
Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia has won a majority of the vote in national elections for the Duma, or lower house of parliament. With 95 percent of the votes counted, United Russia has 54.2 percent, with the Communist Party in a distant second with 13.5 percent, the Liberal Democratic Party with 13.3 percent, and the Fair Russia Party at 6.2 percent, according to the Russian Central Elections Committee. Some 48 percent of eligible voters participated in the election, including 35 percent of voters in Moscow, Russia's RT reports. In the last parliamentary election in 2011, United Russia won 49 percent of the vote, and analysts said Putin's personal popularity helped his party despite the lagging economy. Putin has been president or prime minister for 17 straight years and is expected to seek re-election in 2018. Peter Weber