“I want Putin to be in power for the next six years. It is more comfortable that way. I don’t want to see any sudden changes in this country,” Boris Zhmikhov, 60, said outside a polling station in a residential district just north of downtown Moscow.
Legislation enacted since the 2004 election extends the presidential term to six years instead of four. That means Mr. Putin could serve for another 12 years if he is officially declared the victor and wins again in six years.
However, the success of a new Putin term likely will depend on how he handles the simmering unrest, which for now is mainly in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The fragmented opposition has gained permission to hold a 10,000-strong rally Monday on central Moscow’s Pushkin Square and is using alleged electoral violations to motivate more people to take to the streets.
“Everyone should go out on the streets wherever they want,” anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny told reporters.
“We have a right to assemble, and it’s a citizen’s duty to come out and say that we’re not happy with what’s happened.”
Recent opposition protests have passed peacefully and without arrests, but many observers fear a clampdown under a new Putin presidency.
Local media reported that the government deployed 36,000 police and army officers into the capital over the weekend. Truckloads of riot police trundled past the Kremlin on Sunday afternoon, apparently in anticipation of postelection unrest.
“People will only really believe that the election was honest if it goes to a second round of voting,” Elena Tikhinova, a member of the League of Voters volunteer observer group, told The Washington Times.
“If not, I think people will be very angry.”
By Elaine Donnelly
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