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3 Mar, 2008 18:47

Medvedev sweeps to victory

Russia’s youngest leader for more than 100 years will rule from May 7, after Dmitry Medvedev’s stunning victory in the presidential election. The 42-year-old gained 70.2% of the vote, handing him a mandate to continue the stability of the Putin years whil

Medvedev also signalled he would work in tandem with Vladimir Putin, who will become Prime Minister.

His closest contender, Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist party, is left far behind with less than 18 %. The leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky is on 9 %, and independent candidate Andrey Bogdanov brings up the rear, taking little more than 1%.

The final results will be announced on March 7.

More than 69% of eligible voters turned out on Sunday. Some 52 million people gave their support to Medvedev, which is the highest in Russia's recent history for a head of state.

The country has got the man it wanted, as did the incumbent President, who was among first to congratulate Dmitry Medvedev.  

Was the election democratic?  

Medvedev's victory was predictable. Many in the Western media had portrayed Russia's presidential election as nothing but a farce.

However, that was not a view shared by most of the international observers invited to monitor the vote.

A monitor from Slovakia, Anna Belousovova said “there were some critics who didn’t even bother to get themselves familiar with the way the election system works here”.

“They started saying straightaway that the election was undemocratic. But I think that the citizens of Russia stopped the mouths of those critics with their high turnout. The main attribute of a democratic country is that all decisions are made by the people. Politicians and everybody else should respect the choice of people,” she said.

European Parliament Member Bernard Perego confirmed the election met international standards.

“After we discussed what we saw, we came to the conclusion that the election was excellent in the way it was organised and that it met Western standards,” Perego said.  

The monitors from the Council of Europe were not so enthusiastic, saying that although the results reflected the will of the people, the election was not entirely democratic.

“This election repeats most of the flaws revealed during the parliamentary election in December 2007. None of the concerns of the pre-election mission were dealt with ahead of the March 2 vote. Candidate registration concerns couldn’t have been accommodated, putting into question the degree of how free the election was,” Andreas Gross, the head of PACE observation team, said.  

As for Europe's principal election watchdog from the OSCE, it didn't even attend. In a similar vein to the rows over the parliamentary election last year and the presidential vote in 2004, it complained of excessive restrictions and refused to come.