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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 10:11 GMT
Analysis: Putin's 'power dilemma'
By Stephen Dalziel
BBC Russian Affairs Analyst, in Moscow

President Putin at a news conference in Moscow early on Monday, 15 March 2004
In his 'victory speech', Putin set out his main goals for the second term

With virtually all of the votes counted in the Russian presidential election, it is clear that Vladimir Putin has won the landslide victory that was widely predicted.

With a turnout of 62% of the electorate, Mr Putin gained over 70% of the vote.

His closest rival, the Communist candidate, Nikolai Kharitonov, polled 14%.

So how can Mr Putin be expected to use his power?

'Strong leader'

Western politicians may criticise the Russian way of running elections.

Ivanovo street scene
Outside Moscow, for many people life has hardly changed since 1991
They may say - with justification - that the media was incredibly biased towards Mr Putin in the run-up to the election. But that doesn't explain Mr Putin's undoubted popularity in Russia.

Mr Putin has shown himself to be the kind of strong leader which, many people believe, Russian history has shown is the only way to rule the world's largest country.

Receiving a huge mandate, though, is only the start. The questions are already being asked as to how Mr Putin plans to use his power.

Hopes and fears

Shortly after 0100 local time (2200 GMT) Mr Putin gave his first post-election press conference.

Vladimir Putin (right) dons boxer's gloves speaking with Vyacheslav Fetisov, Chairman of Russia's State Sports Committee in Moscow on Sunday
Putin has proved he can punch hard
He stressed that the economic and social stability which was achieved in his first term was not a goal in itself. It merely provides the necessary background in order to ensure that the well-being of the Russian people can be improved.

Behind that phrase there stand the hopes and fears of millions of Russians.

Looking at Moscow, it's tempting to conclude that Russia has shaken off the worse elements of the Soviet past, which caused shortages of basic goods and political repression.

Moscow is a thriving, modern city. Not only are new office blocks shooting up, as Russians like to say, "like mushrooms after the rain", but new housing is being provided for many ordinary citizens.

But get out into the wider expanses of Russia, and you see that for many people life has hardly changed since the Soviet Union fell apart at the end of 1991.

'Mirror of society'

Statistics may show that the Russian economy is growing at a healthy rate. Statistics, though, can hide a multitude of social and economic problems.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky in jail
Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man, watched the election from prison
The Russian economy relies heavily on natural resources, especially oil and gas. A serious fall in the world oil price would have a damaging effect on that part of the Russian economy that is currently healthy.

The small business climate has improved during Mr Putin's first term, but much needs to be done in terms of legislation to give entrepreneurs protection from the whims of bureaucrats.

Huge problems remain in agriculture. The Soviet system of collectivisation was a disastrous agricultural experiment, from which the countryside is still trying to recover.

Very little has been done in the last 13 years to address the deep-seated problems that remain.

Morale in the military is low.

There has been much talk of "military reform" in recent years, but the Russian Army remains a brutalised and brutalising force.

It is an area of society which Mr Putin seems to have been almost too scared to take on. Many see the military as a mirror of Russian society.

If that is the case, then Mr Putin doesn't have to look far beneath the surface to find plenty of problems to tackle in his second term.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"Mr Putin did his best to look a little worried"

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