Russia held a presidential election Sunday—and it didn't take the powers of the Amazing Kreskin to predict the outcome. Amid reports of ballot box-stuffing and other chicanery, Moscow released official results showing that Vladimir Putin had been re-elected with 76.7% of the vote, his highest score ever, up from 63% in 2012. His newest six-year term will run until 2024, when current Russian law will ban him from a third consecutive term, CNN reports. "We are a single team, I am a member of this team, and all those who cast their ballots today are members of our large national team," Putin told supporters in Moscow. He later said he was planning changes to the government, but wouldn't change the constitution to stay in power. More:
- The rest of the field. Authorities say Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin came in second with 11.6% of the vote, with ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky third with 5.6%. The Guardian reports that TV star Ksenia Sobchak, the only candidate who actually criticized Putin, took 1.6% of the vote. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was banned from running. Official figures put Sunday's turnout at around 67%, below the 70% the Kremlin had hoped for.
- World reaction. The BBC reports that with tensions high after the spy poisoning case in Britain, Western leaders have yet to congratulate Putin, who has been either president or prime minister in Russia since 1999. China's President Xi Jinping—who was unanimously re-elected by the National People's Congress on Saturday—sent a congratulatory message, saying relations between the two countries are at the "best level in history."
- Boosting turnout. Putin is undeniably popular in Russia and the outcome was never in doubt, but local governments still did their best to boost turnout, creating a carnival atmosphere at polling places and handing out prizes, the New York Times reports. Government workers and pensioners turned out in huge numbers due to what the Times describes as a combination of "enthusiasm, habit, and blackmail."
- Snowden weighs in. One Russia resident unafraid to speak out was NSA leaker Edward Snowden. "The ballot stuffing seen today in Moscow and elsewhere in the Russian election is an effort to steal the influence of 140+ million people," he tweeted. "Demand justice; demand laws and courts that matter. Take your future back."
- About that spy poisoning. Putin spoke on the issue for the first time Sunday, calling accusations that Moscow poisoned an ex-spy and his daughter in Britain "nonsense," but saying Russia will cooperate with the investigation, the AP reports. Putin's campaign chair claimed that the episode had mobilized Russian voters. "Right now the turnout numbers are higher than we expected," he said Sunday. "We need to thank Great Britain for that because once again they did not consider the Russian mentality."
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