There is not a single doubt that Putin won those elections with the most votes. He is without a doubt most popular and most liked politician in Russia, hands down. However, the question is - was the vote fair, transparent and were the Russian people properly represented at the elections?
First - judging by the exit poll numbers and the data from various polling agencies and NGO's, Putin won with about 51% of the vote (on average). However, officially he won with 60-something percent of the vote. Surely there were instances of ballot stuffing, carousel voting and irregularities. And that happened not because Putin ordered it, but because of endemic corruption that Russia is in. Let's look at that more closely.
For example - In Chechnya, Putin won with 99% of the total votes cast. Most definitely a falsified statistic. Then again, look more closely - Chechnya is ruled by an eccentric autocrat who does what he wishes, has been accused of serious crimes and being a close Putin ally he does what he wants and anyone who dares to question him gets killed. Kremlin turns a blind eye, as long as Chechnya is part of Russian Federation.
In other instances, there was pressure from the higher-ups to deliver good results in big cities such as Moscow. There are several documented instances of carousel voting that intended to give more votes to Putin from list of registered voters who were considered to be least likely to show up and vote.
One thing for sure - Putin has strong support in rural areas of the country, where is viewed as a competent leader who brings stability and helps people out, while most of the opposition is in big cities such as Moscow and Nizhniy Novgorod. Exit polls indicate that majority of Muscovites did not vote for Putin.
The biggest issue in my opinion is that these elections were very flawed. Many opposition leaders were not represented at the elections. This is due to bureaucracy and the fact that several opposition leaders were denied the right to form parties or be represented at the presidential elections due to convenient technicalities and difficult application procedures (for example - as one of many countless requirements, a presidential candidate must have at least 200,000 signatures in order to run, which is ridiculous in my opinion). So basically the electorate system is flawed.
Most of mainstream media is owned directly or indirectly by Kremlin or state-owned institutions. Pro-Putin coverage heavily outweighs other candidates, criticism of Putin in media and TV has resulted in some recent high-profile sackings and firings of journalists, CEO's and media spokespeople. In other words - these elections were flawed from the beginning.
At least two of the presidential candidates were pro-Putin and were likely running to steal votes from anti-Putin opponents and thus guarantee a first-round victory (Prokhorov and Zhirinovsky). The only significant cadidate other than Putin was a leader of the Russian Communist party, who got something like 18% of the vote. He finished second, for Christ's sake.
To conclude - yes, Putin won the elections, but Russian people were not properly represented as key liberal parties were denied the right to run in the elections. Besides that - recently the government made it more difficult for parties to qualify for parliament, ensuring that the same 3-4 parties are elections to the Duma every time. Russian political system is extremely flawed with tendencies to autocratic rule, and these elections can be seen nothing more than Putin and his protege Medvedev changing seats (yet again), and Putin himself recently admitted that he decided YEARS AGO to run for president again. So it was already decided long ago, aka Putin the Czar.
The government, media and pro-government business & military interests routinely marginalize, intimidate, and shut down opposition on any basis they can, thus Russia today is nothing more than a Tsardom, with strong cenrtainty that a Putin clan (Medvedev is part of the clan, btw) will run the country for at least another 12 years. Russia is once again stagnating, because the same individuals run the whole country all the way from the top and down to the regional officials, who sit on their fat asses and don't care about the average citizens, because they are guaranteed their jobs and feel like they are not obliged to carry out their duties. Officials are not accountable to anyone, and things only get done when citizens complain to Putin, and only when Putin calls the officials do things get done. Thus corruption is endemic.
Other politicians are never given a chance to develop, which is the biggest problem. Promising politicians are forced to align themselves to main political parties or instead risk having their political aspirations ended by the powerful bureaucracy.
Recent huge protests in Moscow and other big cities, on a scale not seen since 1917, is a clear sign that Putin's popularity is waning and people realize just how much of a joke the elections are.
Whenever you go and buy something, you are affecting someone somewhere, be it environment, a person, or a community - you're making a statement with what you buy. So make it a smart choice ... Its a big picture
Last edited by Magnetonium on Mar-11-2012 at 20:54