MOSCOW, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won a resounding victory in Sunday's presidential election, securing his return to the Kremlin.
ELECTION DECLARED AS TRANSPARENT
The Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) announced Monday the preliminary results of the election after 99.3 percent of the ballots had been counted early Monday.
According to the CEC, Putin got 63.75 percent of the votes, followed by Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov who pocketed 17.19 percent.
Independent candidate Mikhail Prokhorov came in third with 7.82 percent.
About 6.23 percent of the votes went to Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and 3.85 percent to A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov.
CEC Chairman Vladimir Churov announced the election valid, adding that the final results would be released within 10 days after the election day.
He said that voter turnout was 65.3 percent, slightly lower than the 69.7 percent in the 2008 election, but higher than the 64.3 percent in 2004.
The chairman also confirmed that nearly 800,000 ballots were spoiled in the election, which accounted for about 1 percent of the total ballots.
While Churov defended the election as transparent and honest, the international observer delegations were divided on the issue in their monitoring reports released on Monday.
Observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) told a briefing that the presidential election was transparent and conducted fully in accordance with Russian laws. The delegation from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) voiced similar views.
However, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) accused the election of being "unfair. "
INVITATION TO COOPERATION
Before the preliminary results were announced, Putin, not known for putting his emotions on public display, declared his victory Sunday night with tears on his cheeks, after exit poll results showed he would win 58.3 percent of the vote.
He will serve a six-year term as president, after new legislation extended the term from the previous four years.
The president-elect also held a meeting on Monday with three election rivals and invited opposition leaders for cooperation.
Putin made the remarks during his meeting with A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov, independent candidate Mikhail Prokhorov and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
"We should endeavor together to settlement the problems in the country," Putin said.
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who took the second in the election, did not attend the meeting.
Putin also said he would instruct the CEC to investigate all possible violations during the vote.
"I have not yet told Churov....I'm sure I would have a conversation with him, asking him to thoroughly probe into all possible violations that you spoke about," Putin told the three rivals.
After the election, Zhirinovsky and Mironov have called Putin early Monday to congratulate him on the victory and Mironov urged the opposition to relax and start working on real reforms. But Zyuganov and Prokhorov have claimed the election was "unfair."
Also on Monday, Putin's supporters and some members of the opposition were staging rival rallies in Moscow and other Russian cities.