Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Sunday claimed victory in Russia's presidential election, the Associated Press reported. Tens of thousands of supporters cheered the victory, though both opposition and independent observers insisted the vote had been marred by widespread violations.
"I have promised that we would win and we have won!" he shouted to the flag-waving crowd, which responded with shouts of support. "We have won in an open and honest struggle."
If the claims of violations are confirmed, they would undermine Putin's victory, and could fuel further protests within the country. According to the AP, the opposition is expected to have a rally in downtown Moscow on Monday.
"These elections are not free … that's why we'll have protests tomorrow. We will not recognize the president as legitimate," said Mikhail Kasyanov, who was Putin's first prime minister before joining the opposition.
Under the Russian constitution, a president can serve only two terms successively, but any number of terms in total.
Having completed two terms as president, Putin appointed Dmitry Medvedev as his successor and took the post of prime minister. He confirmed today that the job swap would be reversed should he win this week's election.
"My offer to him and our agreement on such power sharing, it’s not only about [our] willingness to stay in power, but also to continue the reforms that have been launched," Putin said.
Those reforms include measures to strengthen Russia's democracy, he specified, denying that the government was seeking to "tighten the screws" on its opponents and maintaining it would engage dialogue "with everybody, both with our supporters and critics."
The Russian government, eager to avoid allegations of voter fraud, claimed it has installed Web cams in all of Russia's 90,000 polling stations. It said key parts of the voting process would be monitored to ensure that no irregularities took place, according to NPR.
Nikolai Konkin, secretary of the Central Electoral Commission, demonstrated the monitoring on a model polling place, saying, "It's all transparent."
Opposition groups remained skeptical, saying that while the monitoring might prevent the most blatant ballot stuffing, it would not prevent a common practice called "carousel voting," where voters are driven from polling station to polling station and use absentee ballots to cast multiple votes, according to NPR.