CELEBRATIONS: Vladimir Putin's supporters gather in Moscow to celebrate his presidential election victory on March 4 (LI YONG)
The West and the opposition have denounced him as an "autocrat." But many Russians regard him as the hero of Russia and are crazy about him. Vladimir Putin declared victory in the Russian presidential election on March 4. At that moment, Putin, widely known for never putting his emotions on public display, appeared with tears in his eyes. For him, it wasn't just winning an election, but gaining a chance to accomplish his mission for Russian rejuvenation.
"Putin is not a man addicted to power as some have said," said Xing Guangcheng, a research fellow on Russian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). "He has established high prestige and gained wide popularity in the last decade. He didn't choose to quit at the peak of his life because he has a sense of mission for his nation."
Facing daunting tasks including restructuring the resource-dominated Russian economy and deepening political reform, the president-elect has a long way to go in his third term, Xing added.
After all ballots were counted on March 5, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) reported that incumbent Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had won 63.6 percent of the votes and was to be the next Russian president.
Democracy is a game of majority. Though vehemently criticized by those who dislike him, Putin is popular with the majority of Russian people. Supporters believe Putin can bring the nation economic growth and social stability.
Some people said since other presidential candidates are less popular, Putin is the only choice. Based on statistics from the CEC, even Putin's biggest rival, Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, took only 17.18 percent of the votes.
Western media have foisted an undemocratic and fraudulent image of Russia on both Western and Russian people, said Grigory Trofimchuk, First Vice President of the Strategic Development Modeling Center of Russia, in a video meeting with reporters on March 5. Some Western countries don't like Putin. They hate his political opinions. For instance, Putin advocates a "Eurasian Union" to integrate the independent republics of the former Soviet Union, which will greatly change the international political order.
"There is a large gap between Putin's image inside and outside of Russia," said Xing of the CASS. "Putin has secured his popularity at home because most Russians believe in his capability. In the last decade, he has prevented the former superpower from falling into a second-class country."
Putin has had a strong record since he was first elected Russian president in 2000. He was re-elected in 2004, and became prime minister after the 2008 election.
From reviving the economy to combating terrorism, from safeguarding national unity to cracking down on oligarchs, Putin and his colleagues have made Russia a new emerging power on the world stage and people's lives have improved remarkably. A report from China's News Agency said in January 2012 Russia's inflation rate fell to 4.2 percent, the lowest level since 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated. The concrete achievements show Putin is a man of action and has gained wide support from various sectors of society.