Putin’s pick wins Russian election
Putin, left, and Medvedev celebrated at an open-air concert in Red Square, outside the Kremlin [EPA]
Russia’s next president has promised a “direct continuation” of his predecessor’s policies.
Dmitry Medvedev, backed by Vladimir Putin to suceed him as president, won an overwhelming 69.6 per cent of Sunday’s vote, official results from the Central Election Commission showed.
His nearest rival, Gennady Zyuganov, only managed 18 per cent.
“You can describe some elements of my position in different ways, but it seems to me that it will be a direct continuation of that path which was carried out and is being carried out by President Putin,” Medvedev said in his first post-poll news conference on Monday.
He said a partnership with Putin, “based on the fact that we have long worked together and trust each other” can give the country “rather interesting results”.
Signalling that there would be little change in foreign policy, he said his government “should pursue independent foreign policies, the ones we had in the past eight years”.
Key players in the election
Is Medvedev his own man?
Doubts over power sharing
On Sunday, Putin congratulated his protege.
“Our candidate, Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, has taken a firm lead,” Putin said, wishing him success as he appeared alongside Medvedev on an open-air concert stage in Red Square, outside the Kremlin.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Moscow, said the result was not a surprise and was never really in any doubt.
The poll, he said, was just a formality – a Soviet style vote with really no choice at all.
Even before the election was under way, critics had denounced it as little more than a stage show.
As voting progressed, the independent Russian election monitoring group said it had received a steady stream of complaints.
Many activists and ordinary Russians claim workers were pressed by bosses to vote and that some have been ordered to turn in absentee ballots, presumably so that someone else could vote in their stead.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), refused to send observers, saying the Russian authorities were imposing such tight restrictions that they could not work in a meaningful way.
The Central Election Commission said turnout on Sunday was 67.7 per cent.
The new president will face some major domestic tasks.
Russia has got rich from skyrocketing world oil prices, but the economy is hugely dependent on natural resources and needs to diversify to solidify long-term prosperity.
Inflation – more than 11 per cent last year – is undermining the nascent middle class.
But with Medvedev’s victory, the main political uncertainty in Russia in the transition period is to what extent he will act independently of Putin.
The premiership that Putin is expected to take – Medvedev has said he would ask Putin to become his prime minister – is the most powerful executive position in the government and Putin would be likely to maximise its influence.
Speculation persists that the parliament, overwhelmingly dominated by Putin’s supporters, could expand the prime minister’s powers, or that Medvedev could resign before his term is out, allowing Putin to return to the presidency.
But Medvedev said on Monday that “based on the structure of the power that has been proposed, the president has his functions, the prime minister has his functions.
“It is based on the existing constitution and legislation and no one plans to change it.”