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Putin Easily Wins Re-election - 2004-03-15


Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to press ahead with social, economic and political reforms, after securing a resounding victory in Sunday's national election.

Mr. Putin said in remarks shown on Russian state television that in his second term the government will work to solidify what he called the democratic gains of the previous four years.

Speaking several hours after polls closed and first, unofficial results were announced, President Putin said his government would work to sustain further economic growth and strengthen civil society and media freedom.

He also said that with stability more or less in place, in his view, raising Russians' standard of living remains his primary goal.

Mr. Putin said not enough has been done to raise at least a quarter of the population out of poverty.

He also pledged ensure Russia has a multi-party political system -- something critics say it has now in name only, with Mr. Putin able to manipulate the media to ensure his re-election.

In the international arena, Mr. Putin pledged to press Russia's national interests without resorting to, what he called, aggressive or confrontational measures.

Russia's Central Election Commission Chief, Alexander Veshnyakov, announced Mr. Putin's landslide win early Monday morning in Moscow, after 99 percent of the votes had been counted. Mr. Veshnyakov said the incumbent president secured 71.2 percent of the vote.

According to Mr. Veshnyakov, only one of President Putin's five challengers attracted more than 10 per cent of the vote. That was Nikolai Kharitonov of the Communist party, who received 14 percent.

Far behind were Sergei Glazyev, Irina Khakamada, Oleg Malyshkin and Sergei Mironov, in that order.

After initial Kremlin concern, turnout was reported at 64 percent, well over the 50 percent required for the election to be valid.

Mr. Veshnyakov says final, official results of the Russian presidential election must be released by March 25th. But he noted that is just a formality and said he is certain the results will hold.

He also reported some minor violations during Sunday's voting, but said they were dealt with on the spot.

Opposition challengers dispute that claim, saying the election was marred from the start by excessive pressure on voters and misuse of the media by the incumbent president. They say the pressure, in their words, exceeded all limits.

An observer mission comprised of members of the Commonwealth of Independent States says its members did not witness any serious offenses during Sunday's voting, which they described as democratic. Other international observers have yet to deliver their assessment of the election.

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