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Unsurprising victory for Dmitri Medvedev in the Russian Presidential Election

Unsurprising victory for Dmitri Medvedev in the Russian Presidential Election

03/03/2008 - Results

Dmitri Medvedev won the Russian presidential election on 2nd March in the first round; the election seemed more like a transfer of power than a true election. Successor designate of outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitri Medvedev won 70.28% of the vote. He came out ahead of Guennady Zuganov (Communist Party KPRF), who won 17.75% of the vote, Vladimir Jirinovski (Liberal Democratic Party, LDPR), who won 9.36% and Andrei Bogdanov (Democratic Party of Russia, DPR), 1.29%. Turn out was high at 63.78%, slightly lower than the figure recorded in the last presidential election on 14th March 2004 (- 0.61 point).

"We have chosen the path of development for many years to come and we are going to continue the road that we have been following for the last few years. By strengthening stability and improving living standards we shall be able to continue towards the goal set by Vladimir Putin and we have every chance of achieving this. Vladimir Putin and I trust each other and this is probably the most important thing. We are going to undertake an independent international policy – the same one as we have followed for the last eight years with the main aim of protecting our national interests on all fronts and by all possible means, remaining within a legal sphere of course," declared Dmitri Medvedev on the announcement of the results. The new President of the Federation of Russia held a meeting in Red Square in Moscow with Vladimir Putin. "I thank you, along with all of the citizens of Russia who turned out to the polling stations. This means that we live in a democratic State and that our civil society is really becoming effective, responsible and active," stressed Vladimir Putin, saying that the election of Dmitri Medvedev guaranteed the continuation of his policy. "The election took place. Our candidate Dmitri Medvedev was clearly ahead and I wish him every success. The Presidential election took place strictly in line with the Constitution. A victory such as this implies a great number of obligations and will serve as a guarantee that what we have been doing for the last eight years will continue," he added.

"It was not really an honest election. I have a list of 201 infringements, each more negative than the other," declared Guennady Zuganov when the results were announced. The Communist candidate maintained that he had the support of around 25% to 35% of the Russians and said, "In my opinion Dmitri Medvedev did not win". Notably he complained of infringements in voting operations in the Russian Far East. "I am surprised that some regional governors spoke yesterday calling for voters to support the party in power," he indicated, announcing that he would start legal action. "We have proof of fraud and we shall take this to the courts," he said. However he did say that he was pleased to have come second "given the context of the campaign undertaken by the authorities."

The ultra nationalist candidate Vladimir Jirinovski said that he would also turn to the courts to challenge the results of the presidential election. "Of course we shall appeal to the courts, but this will lead to nothing," he declared.

The Russian non-governmental organisation Golos denounced infringements: ballot stuffing, observers expulsed from polling stations and employees forced to fulfil their civic duty under the threat of sanctions. "The scene is a dark one. There has been intimidation, with some people being obliged to vote at their place of work. We witnessed similar fraud as in the general elections that took place on 2nd December which unfortunately have become the norm," declared Lilia Shibanova of the NGO's executive committee.

The rare Western observers responsible for monitoring the presidential election expressed their concerns about infringements during the election and the electoral campaign. The Observer Mission for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) believes that the "presidential election was not free and that it did not achieve its democratic potential," according to mission leader Andreas Gross. This mission was the only Western delegation present in Russia for the election since the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) cancelled its mission after the authorities prevented observers from arriving in the field in time for them to undertake their work correctly.

Opponent Gary Kasparov (The Other Russia) denounced "a farce that we call an election but which is nothing more than a Kremlin conspiracy." The former world chess champion attempted, unsuccessfully, to reach Red Square brandishing a banner on which observers could read "Not involved in this masquerade". "It is an enormous fraud in which political intimidation has been used and which we hear of from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad. Voters are obliged to take part in this farce. Russian law is being totally violated. The authorities have destroyed the election in this country. We now have to launch a campaign to acknowledge the illegitimacy of this election," he said. On the eve of the election he handed in a petition to the Russian Electoral Commission bearing the signatures of 5000 people who condemned the election which they qualified as "illegitimate." He also announced that his party would organise a demonstration on 3rd March in Moscow and in Saint Petersburg to the cry of "Down with the monarchy and succession."

Regime opponent, Mikhaïl Kassianov, leader of the Russian People's Democratic Union (RNDS) who was refused the right to stand in the presidential election on 27th January (the Electoral Commission believed that 13.36% of the 2,067,000 signatures he had collated in order to be able to stand were invalid), denounced the election's results. "An election without choice is not an election. It is an operation led by the KGB secret services which aim to transfer power from one person to another," he declared. "There is no winner but the losers are the 140 million Russians, the Federation of Russia and its reputation in the international arena," maintained the former Prime Minister (2000-2004) of outgoing President Vladimir Putin.

"I believe he is well prepared, well trained and modern. He has great experience as a lawyer, he is intelligent but he has one weakness, he has not worked long enough on a federal level," declared former Secretary General of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev when speaking of Dmitri Medvedev. The former leader maintains that this election "was better than the previous one but far from what it should be."

Dmitri Medvedev has followed Vladimir Putin throughout his entire career. They met at the town-hall in Saint-Petersburg, the town he and the present President come from. Aged 42 the new president is a graduate in law. He started his career teaching law. From 1990-1995, he worked at the town-hall of Saint-Petersburg which was managed by Anatoly Sobchak. In 1999 Dmitri Medvedev followed Vladimir Putin to Moscow and became the manager of his electoral campaign in December 1999 for the Presidential election of March 2000. He was appointed chairman of the board of Gazprom in June 2000 and in 2003 he was appointed head of the presidential administration; he was then appointed first Deputy Prime Minister responsible for major national projects in November 2005.
"Conflict between Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev is more than likely, not because of their personal relations which are good but because of the complicated and controversial configuration of power. The Presidency of the Federation is a colossal tool but Dmitri Medvedev will need time before he takes decisions independently," indicates Nikolaï Petrov, analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Centre. "At least Dmitri Medvedev's declarations are slightly liberal. He supports business development and seems in favour of a reduction in State influence in the economy. He is also the most pro-European of all of Vladimir Putin's team but the question is: how much room to manoeuvre will he have? The answer to this depends entirely on the balance achieved between the various trends," declares Mark Urnov, director of the think-tank Expertiza. "The harmonious couple that Vladimir Putin wants to form with Dmitri Medvedev is a pious wish. The position of President will make a politically weak man strong. He will start by getting rid of those who brought him to power," forecasts Aleksander Konovalov, director of the Institute for Strategic Evaluation. "When you become N°1 you step into the shoes of Peter the Great, of all the Ivans and the Aleksanders of Russia. You have to think of yourself as a Tsar. You cannot say that you will keep the seat warm for someone else," maintains Dmitri Trenin, analyst at the Carnegie Centre.

Dmitir Medvedev's choice of colleagues will provide the first signs of how he intends to act as Head of State.
The new Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, will officially be sworn in on 7th May next. Outgoing President Vladimir Putin is due to become his Prime Minister.

Presidential Election Results on 2nd March 2008 in Russia

Turn out: 63.78%

Source: Russian Electoral Commission (http://cikrf.ru)
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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