Medvedev becomes Russian president-elect

Monday, March 3, 2008

Dmitry Medvedev.

Dmitry Medvedev, age 42, has won the presidential election in Russia and is expected to take office on May 7, 2008, replacing Vladimir Putin who has served two 4-year presidential terms since 2000.

The elections were held on Sunday, March 2, and participation among registered voters was 69.65%. On Monday morning, Russian Central Election Commission announced that almost all of the votes were counted with Medvedev receiving 70.21% of votes that were cast. In second place was Communist Party leader Gennady Zuyganov with 17.77%, followed by Liberal Democrat Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 9.37%, and Democratic Party candidate Andrey Bogdanov who got 1.29% percent of the votes.

Medvedev is Putin's announced "successor". Medvedev has repeatedly promised to continue the political course of the current Russian government. Medvedev officially ran as an independent but was endorsed by United Russia, Fair Russia and other political parties.

Fairness questioned

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, human rights activist Vladimir Bukovsky, reformer Boris Nemtsov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov were all prohibited from taking part in the election for various technicalities. The Russian media have focused heavily on Medvedev while giving little attention to the opposition candidates.

The head of the Western observer organisation Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called the elections "neither free nor fair", but also admitted that "to reduce the whole election to a spin by the forces working in the Kremlin, would be too simple." He added that "The president-elect will have a solid mandate given him by the majority of Russians." Kasparov called the elections "a farce" and demonstrated in St. Petersburg with over 1000 activists.

Only 300 foreign observers monitored the election that involved about 96,000 polling stations across Russia's 11 time zones. The key European monitoring group, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, refused to come, saying restrictions imposed by the Russians would have made a meaningful assessment impossible.

Vladimir Putin, who has been working with Medvedev since he was a KGB agent, is expected to become Prime Minister. Medvedev is currently Putin's chief of staff and also holds the position of chair of Gazprom, Russia's state-owned giant natural gas company. Medvedev is expected to give up that post, since it cannot be combined with the presidency. Medvedev is considered as a pro-democratic, less nationalistic politician compared to Putin.