Asian and Latin American leaders are weighing in with praise for Vladimir Putin’s re-election victory in Russia. Officials say the president garnered almost 77 percent of the vote, with an estimated turnout of 67 percent
Leaders from Latin America, where it was still daytime when Russia’s election results were announced on Sunday, and Asia, which woke up to the news on Monday, praised President Vladimir Putin’s easy victory in a vote no one thought he would lose.
Sunday’s first notable international congratulations came from Venezuela. “This new victory of President Putin solidifies his leadership and his demonstrated capacity to steer the specific weight of Russia in history and in the convulsing world of today,” said Nicolas Maduro, Putin’s closest Latin American ally and embattled counterpart in Caracas.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales also celebrated Putin’s victory. “Russia respects the dignity of societies and guarantees geopolitical equilibrium against the charge of imperialism,” Morales wrote on his official Twitter account late Sunday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping offered his own praise for his longtime ally in the Kremlin, saying he foresaw a deepened bond between the countries. “Currently, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership is at the best level in history, which sets an example for building a new type of international relations,” Xi said in a congratulatory message to Putin carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.
‘To create legitimacy’
The Central Election Commission reports that up to 67 percent of eligible voters turned out for Sunday’s election in Russia, which Vladimir Putin is said to have won with a 76.67 percent tally. That turnout would be even higher than the 2012 polls, when 65 percent of voters restored the former KGB spy to the presidency for what was his third six-year term.
Analysts called turnout a major factor for Putin, who sought a clear mandate.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny urged supporters to boycott polls to drive down turnout after the Kremlin barred him from running due to a criminal conviction he calls politically motivated. Though the official numbers contrasted his words, Navalny called Sunday’s boycott effective because “the level of voting was lower than the last time, despite everyone being coerced.”
“These elections, which everybody knows what the result is going to be, are basically there to create legitimacy for Putin himself,” German Council on Foreign Relations analyst Sarah Pagung told DW. “If there would be a low turnout, it would mean that people are not interested in politics.”
Selfies and cheap potatoes
Authorities pushed to bring out voters. Billboards and ads urging people to show up outnumbered those for individual candidates. Public sector workers reported pressure to vote from their superiors. There was even a concerted effort to get women to cast ballots.
“They were very much trying to pull people to the polls,” DW’s Emily Sherwin said. “There were selfie competitions; there were raffles where people could win cars. They were selling food at really very reasonable prices — for example, my colleague in Kazan said outside the polling station he was at they were selling a kilo of potatoes for 20 euro cents, so really, really cheap. So they were really trying to pull people to the polls.”
Putin himself injected a bit of uncertainty into a Russian election that had otherwise produced no surprises when he said he could not promise to run again for the presidency when he next becomes eligible — in 2030. Russia’s constitution allows only two consecutive presidential terms, meaning that Putin would have to leave the office from 2024 to 2030, as he did in 2008, when he took the post of prime minister after having spent the previous eight years as the country’s president.
“You think I’m going to be sitting here for a hundred years?” the 65-year-old, who has held power as Russia’s president or prime minister for nearly two decades, said at a news conference.
mkg/se (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)