Vladimir Putin is set to extend his power in Russia for another six years after winning Sunday’s presidential election with a decisive 73.9% of the vote, a state-run exit poll shows.
Putin was widely expected to win his fourth term as President, with no meaningful opposition in the running and his fiercest opponent, Alexei Navalny, barred from the race.
Exit polls are not final, and official results are gradually being released. An official win of more than 73% of the vote would be a major boost to Putin, who already enjoys sweeping powers over his country.
He won 63.6% of the ballots in the 2012 election, but the number of people who turned out this time was not immediately clear.
Putin declared victory in front of thousands of people gathered in below-freezing temperatures at Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin, calling for unity in the country, CNN reported.
“We are a great big team together and I am a member of your team,” he said, after a colorful show of high-energy musical performances.
No candidate came close to Putin in the race. The Communist Party’s Pavel Grudinin was a distant second with 11.2% of the vote, according to the exit poll conducted by the state-owned Russia Public Opinion Research Center.
Putin has dominated Russian politics for 18 years and was already the country’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
His election win will take his rule to 2024, when he will be 71. But the President hasn’t groomed a successor, prompting speculation he may try to find ways to extend his power beyond this term.