International observers have acknowledged the election as free, democratic, and fair, saying the results reflect people’s expectations of a stable, developed, and increasingly strong Russia.
The majority of the voters want Putin back in the Kremlin because they believe in the stability Putin has managed to maintain during his 8-year presidency and 4-year Prime Ministership despite a troubling global economic downturn.
Under Putin’s leadership, Russia not only fortified its confidence in the international arena but also restored social order, which had been in bad shape since the 1990s. The GDP increased to US$1.5 trillion from US$250 million during the 1990s.
Putin has proved to be a politician with firm positions during bilateral and multilateral negotiations. He has succeeded in strengthening relations between Russia and many other countries and international organisations, paving the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organisation soon.
On knowing the initial results of the election, Putin vowed to work hard to protect national interests. He said his campaign has focused on 4 major goals: reforming Russia’s political system and promoting democracy; boosting socio-economic development; strengthening national defense and security; and pursuing independent external policies. He said all 4 goals will be concretized during his 6-year term as President.
Observers say it is no easy task for Putin to achieve the goal. To modernize the economy, Putin needs to come up with reform plans which will help Russia achieve a 6-7 percent GDP growth rate, raise Russia from the world’s 11th largest economy to the 5th later this decade, improve people’s average living standard, and reform Russia’s army, healthcare, and retirement systems.
This will be difficult when 14.3 percent of Russians live below the poverty line. Foreign capital is flowing out of the Russian market and foreign direct investment remains modest. It will also be a headache for Putin that the Russian economy relies on the export of raw materials. Last year oil and gas exports contributed nearly half of the country’s revenues.
Corruption is ravaging the country. According to Transparency International, Russia was one of the most corrupt countries in the world last year. Putin will also face increasing opposition and instability, which has been growing since the election of the Lower House last December.
Analysts believe the biggest external challenge for Putin is reconciling Russia’s stance on the new world order with that of the US and the West, who want the new order to benefit themselves. Putin will also face the difficulty of coping with a wave of interference around the globe, using armed force or the threat of armed force by the US and its allies.
Economically, Russia will face both opportunities and challenges as China and other emerging economies continue to grow. Putin will be heading back to the Kremlin in May as Russia’s President. It is too soon to assess his chances of success but Russian voters seem confident of a better future for their country.