Putin soars in Caucasus, plummets in Moscow
Vladimir Putin reclaimed the presidency with contrasting results across Russia, winning almost unanimous support in the tightly-controlled North Caucasus, but losing 20 percent of voters in Moscow.
While Putin won a comfortable victory nationwide, his totals in the two largest cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg in particular were far from the overwhelming numbers of his last presidential bid in 2004.
Putin won just 47.06 percent in Moscow, Russia's largest city with a population of over 11 million, according to preliminary results, a total that if repeated nationwide would have required a second round of polls.
The result confirms protest leaders' estimates of much-reduced support for Putin. In his last presidential election, Putin won 68.6 support in the capital.
Billionaire tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov scored strongly in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, where his pro-business and more liberal approach appealed to more prosperous voters, and where polls were closely watched by observers.
Standing as an independent with only months of political experience, Prokhorov won 20.36 percent of the vote in preliminary results in Moscow, beating Communist veteran Gennady Zyuganov, who came second nationwide.
In certain areas of the city, Prokhorov was the most popular candidate, an electoral official said.
"In 20 polling stations, Prokhorov came first," said the deputy chairman of the city's electoral commission, Alexander Bobychev, cited by the RIA Novosti news agency.
In his native city of Saint Petersburg, Putin won 58.78 percent of the vote in a preliminary count, much lower than his 2004 result of 75 percent, while Prokhorov came second with 15.52 percent.
In further-flung regions, Putin had a stronger showing, with a few extremely high results.
In the southeastern Siberian region of Tyva, Putin won precisely 90.0 percent of the vote in early results.
In Mordovia, a central region known mainly for its prison colonies, Putin scored 87.06 percent.
Putin scored highest in several of the tiny republics of the North Caucasus, where eye-wateringly high turnouts and support for the ruling powers regularly raise eyebrows about the free and secret conduct of the polls.
In Chechnya, where Putin sent in the troops for a second war against separatists in 1999, he won an extraordinary 99.76 percent in a preliminary count with a turnout of 99.61 percent. The other candidates gained less than 200 votes apiece.
Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who repeatedly declares his devotion to Putin, said in a statement Monday that "I consider it logical and fair that an absolute majority of the republic's voters voted for Vladimir Putin."
© 2012 AFP