Hatim Khan – 20.03.2018- Vladimir Putin was re-elected as the President of Russia on Sunday, making it his fourth term in office. Putin, who has ruled Russia either as the Prime minister or President, won the elections by bagging over 76% of the total votes casted, making it his largest victory to date in any election. The election turnout was a little over 67%.

Many have widely criticized the election to be rigged and unfair. A non-governmental election monitoring agency called GOLOS said they have counted at least 2000 irregularities during voting. Further strengthening this claim of GOLOS many videos have been circulating on the internet showing various incidents where individuals can be seen casting votes multiple times.  GOLOS and other monitoring agencies have also complained that authorities had prevented their observers from monitoring the election.

The outcome of the election has not been a surprise to anyone as Putin had no serious competition. There were seven other minor candidates who also ran for Presidency but Putin’s biggest opponent Alexei Navalny, had been barred from even taking part in the election over a fraud conviction. Navalny denies all charges and claims that the legal barriers have been put in place to prevent any real opposition during the elections. Being the most outspoken critic of Putin and his party, Navalny gained popularity by exposing the corruption prevalent within the Russian establishment. It is believed that his grassroots campaign through which he reached out to the most desolate parts of the Countries had gathered him a large following and him running in the elections could have proven to be massive challenge for Putin. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) claims that competition had been stifled by excessive restrictions on fundamental freedoms and restrictions on candidates, stating that “Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron have both congratulated the Russian President over his victory. They also spoke of their concerns over the recent deterioration of international relations among UK and Russia as well as Russia’s role in Syria. Urging that the way forward is through greater cooperation between the European Countries and Russia. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who himself won the presidential election at home and terminated the maximum amount of terms for himself to remain in power was another leader who congratulated Putin over his victory.

President Putin in his post victory speech on Monday had a much softer tone towards the European Countries. He said that he is open to constructive dialogue and is willing to resolve to issues among countries through diplomacy rather than creating a security dilemma among them. Contrary to his tone during the run up to the election, he said, “We will do everything to resolve all the differences with our partners using political and diplomatic channels”.

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