Vladimir Putin is almost certain to win a third presidential term in an election that began on Sunday in Russia’s far east, though opponents have challenged the legitimacy of a vote they say is skewed in his favor. Putin’s aides hope a strong win will take the sting out of an urban protest movement that casts the former KGB spy as an authoritarian leader who rules by allowing a corrupt elite to siphon off the wealth from the world’s biggest energy producer. In interviews from the Arctic to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Russians gave a mixed picture: some expressed anger at being offered no real choice while others said Putin had proved he was a leader who could rule Russia.
… Russia’s opposition leaders, a fragmented group of activists, journalists and bloggers, are preparing rallies for the day after the vote and say the election is skewed heavily in Putin’s favor even without the vote rigging they expect.
Alexei Navalny, the most influential figure in the protest movement, has said Putin’s election cannot be legitimate and called for an escalation of the protests including tent camps in central Moscow. “If he does become president, he will not become a legal president, it will be an inherited throne,” Navalny, a 35-year-old anti-corruption blogger told Reuters on his release from jail in December. He was detained during an protest after the parliamentary election and sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Full Article: Putin set to reclaim the Kremlin in Russian vote.