Election Observers: Russian Election Lacked Real Choice

(VOA): The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says Russia's presidential election was conducted in an orderly fashion but lacked real choice.

“After intense efforts to promote turnout, citizens voted in significant numbers, yet restrictions on the fundamental freedoms, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition,” OSCE election observers said in a statement.

President Vladimir Putin is headed for a resounding victory in the election, soundly defeating seven other candidates.

“While candidates could generally campaign freely, the extensive coverage in most media of the incumbent as president resulted in an uneven playing field,” the OSCE observers said. “Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice.”

Putin addressed thousands on the Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin late Sunday. He hailed those who voted for him as a “big national team,'' adding that “we are bound for success.''

Asked if he would seek the presidency again when next eligible to run, in 2030, the 65-year-old Russian leader snapped, “It's ridiculous. Do you think I will sit here until I turn 100?''

Putin's closest rival in the election was opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was disqualified from running in the election when he was convicted for embezzlement in December. Given a five-year suspended sentence, Navalny said the conviction was politically motivated, to keep him out of the race.

Navalny led a boycott effort, while Russian election organizers hoped for a high voter turnout to legitimize an election long seen to have been a foregone conclusion.

Putin has been in power as either president or prime minister since 1999.

(This story has not been edited by N24 staff and is Voice Of America auto-generated from a RSS feed)

Published Date: Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 | 12:45 PM

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