Vladimir Putin has won a new six year term as President of Russia.
Putin has held the reins of power in Russia since 1999, alternating between the posts of Prime Minister and President for almost two decades. The office of President was previously held by Dmitry Medvedev, who switched positions with Putin to become Prime Minister in 2012.
Official Russian results show Putin winning 76.68% of the vote, with the second most popular candidate, Pavel Grudinin, receiving just 11.78%. There were eight candidates running in this year’s election, but the fact of Putin’s victory was not in question.
Despite Putin’s claim that Russia is a functioning democracy, the country is widely understood to share characteristics of both an electoral democracy and a highly authoritarian state. Whilst foreign observers recognised that the elections were ‘well administered’, they also said that they were ‘characterised by restrictions on fundamental freedoms’ and ‘lack of genuine competition’. Videos appearing to show electoral fraud have surfaced, and prior to the election, the main opposition candidate, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running.
Outside Europe, leaders, including those of China, Japan, and Iran, have sent their formal congratulations to Mr. Putin. The reaction amongst European leaders has been more ambivalent.
After the poisoning of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, in the UK this March, tensions between Moscow and Europe have been particularly tense, with a diplomatic spat between the UK and Russia looking set to deepen.
A spokesperson for Angela Merkel has said that the German Chancellor will send a telegram “very soon” to Putin, but also highlighted that Germany had “differences of opinion” with Russia on several issues. The congratulations will apparently contain words of caution about the direction of Russo-German relations. Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Theresa May of the UK is yet to extend her congratulations to Mr Putin.