Putin Said to Capture 88% in Non-Competitive Vote, Extending His Rule


Russia announced that President Vladimir Putin is capturing 88% of the vote in the first ballot counting in the presidential election Sunday, an exercise that gave voters no real alternatives to an autocrat who has ruthlessly cracked down on dissent.

The three-day election that began Friday to extend Putin’s 24-year rule for another six years took place in a tightly controlled environment where no public criticism of Putin or his war in Ukraine was allowed.

Putin’s fiercest political foe, Alexey Navalny, died in an Arctic prison last month, and other critics are either in jail or in exile. But heeding Navalny’s last political request, long lines of voters showed up at polling stations in major cities precisely at noon to cast symbolic, if futile votes against Putin, 71.

Associates of Putin’s top critic Navalny encouraged people to take part in the protest, which Navalny himself endorsed shortly before his sudden death in a Siberian prison in February.

Voters queue at a polling station in St. Petersburg, Russia, March 17, 2024.

Voters queue at a polling station in St. Petersburg, Russia, March 17, 2024.

The Reuters news agency reported the other results, with communist candidate Nikolai Kharitonov coming in second with just under 4% of the vote, newcomer Vladislav Davankov third, and ultra-nationalist Leonid Slutsky fourth.

“The elections are obviously not free nor fair given how Mr. Putin has imprisoned political opponents and prevented others from running against him,” the White House’s national security council spokesperson said, according to Reuters.

For the protest, called “Noon against Putin,” Russians who are unhappy with Putin went to their local polling station at midday to either vote for one of the three candidates running against Putin, or spoil their ballot in protest.

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Others, meanwhile, said they would write in Navalny’s name, whose death last month prompted grassroots memorials across the country that Russian authorities were quick to stamp out.

Several dozen cases of vandalism at polling stations were also reported.

The group OVD-Info, which tracks political arrests in Russia, said that more than 50 people were arrested in 14 cities across Russia on Sunday.

Similar protests appeared to take place at Russian embassies around the world. At polling stations at Russian diplomatic missions in Australia and Armenia, Kazakhstan and Japan, hundreds of Russians stood in line at noon.

And in the German capital of Berlin, Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, who has become the face of his campaign following his death, appeared at the Russian embassy to take part in the protest, while others present clapped and chanted her name.

Yulia Navalnaya, center, widow of Alexey Navalny, stands in a queue with other voters at a polling station near the Russian embassy in Berlin, after noon local time, on Sunday, March 17, 2024.

Yulia Navalnaya, center, widow of Alexey Navalny, stands in a queue with other voters at a polling station near the Russian embassy in Berlin, after noon local time, on Sunday, March 17, 2024.

“Alexey was fighting for very simple things: for freedom of speech, for fair elections, for democracy and our right to live without corruption and war,” Navalnaya said in a message to a rally in Budapest on March 15. “Putin is not Russia. Russia is not Putin.”

But despite the show of opposition to Putin, the longtime Russian leader is almost guaranteed to win reelection. Assuming he does, and if he completes that six-year term, he would pass Josef Stalin and become Russia’s longest-serving leader in more than two centuries.

The election takes place against the backdrop of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which is now in its third year. Leading up to the election, Putin portrayed the war as an existential fight for Russia against the West.

Some information in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.



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