In the presidential election held in March 2000, Putin was elected to a full term as president, winning almost 53 percent of the vote. Putin’s control over the government strengthened with the overwhelming victory of his United Russia Party in the December 2003 parliamentary elections. International election observers called the election “free but unfair” because Putin and his allies enjoyed a virtual monopoly on television coverage. Early in his term, Putin had placed independent television stations under government control.
Putin easily won reelection in March 2004 with 71 percent of the vote. His closest rival, the communist candidate, won only 14 percent of the vote. Russian voters appeared to credit Putin with transforming the Russian economy, which saw growth of at least 5 percent in the gross domestic product (GDP) in each year of Putin’s first term. International election observers and pro-democracy forces within Russia were again critical of Putin’s control over the state-run media, noting that media coverage showed a “clear bias” in favor of Putin and that other candidates had little access to the media.
Russia held parliamentary elections in late 2007. International election observers criticized the election as “unfair” due to Putin’s continued control of the media, as well as several reforms to the country’s electoral law that weakened the position of opposition parties. Changes to the electoral law included banning independents from running as candidates; increasing the minimum membership required of a party for it to be officially registered; and increasing the required percentage of votes to 7 percent (from 5 percent) for a party to gain representation. According to official election results, the pro-Putin United Russia party and its allies won nearly three-quarters of the seats in the State Duma. The Communist Party comprised the only remaining opposition in the Russian parliament.
Liberal parties that had been excluded or were unable to pass the required threshold warned that Russia was on its way to again becoming a single-party, totalitarian state. However, Putin continued to enjoy widespread support, as a majority of Russians credited his strong leadership for improving the country.
A presidential election was due in March 2008. Putin, barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive presidential term, endorsed his protégé, Dmitri Medvedev, as his successor. Putin announced that he intended to become prime minister, indicating he would continue to wield considerable influence. During the presidential campaign, opposition candidates received scant attention in the state-controlled media and opposition rallies were subject to police crackdowns. Few international observers were present to monitor the election due to severe restrictions imposed on their work by the Russian government. Buoyed by Putin’s popularity and a sidelined opposition, Medvedev won a landslide victory with 70 percent of the popular vote. Putin’s term as president formally ended on May 7, and the following day the State Duma approved him as Russia’s new prime minister. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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