The result was never in doubt. This was more a referendum than a serious choice of candidates. It was always known Mr Putin would become Russia’s President for a fourth (and last?) term, till 2024. The mandate, with 76.67 per cent of those voting for him, would be taken as overwhelming endorsement of Mr Putin’s policies. With leading rival Aleskei Navalny kept out, the election was a formality. To draw crowds to show the numbers endorsing the Russian strongman, the regions did everything from offering prizes and food discounts to creating a carnival atmosphere.
His nearest competitor is projected to get 13 per cent, and the only woman in the race got just two per cent of the vote. The one statistic that was a bit worrying was that the young weren’t willing to join the party to endorse their President: only nine per cent in the 18-25 age group turned up. While the Kremlin has to find a President for 2024, Mr Putin’s challenge is to rebuild Russia as a global power to challenge the West. He was enfeebled in the task of rebuilding by lower oil and mineral prices. An image hit as in the poisoning scandal is, however, just a distraction for a nationalist who has convinced his people he’s the one to lead them to global greatness, a point that was already stressed with the election day being the fourth anniversary of the reclaiming of Crimea. Russians are convinced the best man to tackle the feeling of their country being besieged is Mr Putin, who is rebuilding its arsenal. Whether they like it or not, the West will have to deal with Mr Putin for years to come.