Written by Martin Russell,
On 18 March 2018, Russians will elect the president who will govern their country for the next six years. Incumbent, Vladimir Putin is firmly on track to win, with approval ratings that have stayed above 80 % since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russians see him as a strong president, who has brought order to the country and restored its great power status. They are worried about the economy, poverty and corruption, but these problems, though partly blamed on Putin, have barely dented his popularity.
Reportedly, Putin’s campaign has set a twin target of a 70 % vote in his favour and a 70 % turnout. Polls suggest that Putin will indeed win by a record margin, but also that a low turnout will tarnish his victory, denying him a ringing endorsement at the start of his fourth and probably final term in office. Apathy will probably be the main reason for voters staying at home, but some will heed an election boycott called by Alexey Navalny, Putin’s most vocal opponent, who has been barred from the race.
Vying for second place are seven other candidates. The most likely runners-up are veteran Vladimir Zhirinovsky and newcomer Pavel Grudinin. Reality TV star Xenia Sobchak adds colour to an otherwise lacklustre campaign, but few see her as a credible candidate.
Widespread electoral fraud on the day of the vote is not expected. Nevertheless, the exclusion of Alexey Navalny and the lack of any real alternative to Putin raise questions about the democratic legitimacy of the election.
Read this complete briefing on ‘Russia’s 2018 presidential election: Six more years of Putin‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.