Due to Putin’s suppression of dissent during election there is little suspense surrounding Russia

Due to Putin’s suppression of dissent, there is no suspense in this election for Russian voters

Vladimir Putin‘s six-year presidential term is almost certain to be extended after he suppressed criticism. Russia’s presidential election is set to begin with three days of voting on Friday.


Putin now has complete control over the political system, and the election is taking place against the backdrop of a brutal crackdown that has destroyed independent media and well-known rights organisations.


Vladimir Putin's speech for election
Representational image. AFP


It also comes as Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine approaches its third year. Russia has the advantage on the battlefield, where it is making small, but slow, gains. Meanwhile, Ukraine has made Moscow appear vulnerable behind the front lines: long-range drone attacks have struck deep within Russia, while high-tech drones have forced Russia’s Black Sea fleet to go on the defensive.


Voters are casting ballots at polling places in all 11 time zones of the large nation on Friday through Sunday, as well as in areas of Ukraine that have been unlawfully annexed. Russians can now vote online, for the first time in a presidential election; more than 200,000 people in Moscow did so shortly after the polls opened, according to officials.


Since Putin, 71, is practically unopposed in his bid for a fifth term, there is little reason for excitement around this election. His political opponents are either imprisoned or exiled; the most outspoken of them, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic penal cell last month. The three other candidates on the ballot are low-profile lawmakers from minor opposition parties who support the Kremlin’s agenda.


When and where is the election taking place?


The first Russian presidential election to span three days will be held on Friday, March 15, and Sunday, March 17. Voting had already begun earlier, including among Russia’s expatriate community abroad.


Voting has also been held in the four Ukrainian regions that Russia has stated it will acquire in September 2022, in violation of international law. Russia has already held regional ballots and referenda in those seized territories, which the international world has condemned as a fraud but that the Kremlin regards as vital to its Russification programme.


If no candidate receives more than half of the vote, a second round of voting will be held three weeks after this weekend, but that would be a huge surprise. Russians elect just the president; the next parliamentary elections, which will determine the composition of the Duma, are due in 2026.


Voting for the Russian presidential election held in Kerala:


Voting for their country’s presidential election took place in the Russian House, the Honorary Consulate of the Russian Federation in Thiruvananthapuram, among the Russian people living in Kerala, including visitors.


presidential election in Kerala's Russia House
Russian nationals vote for presidential election in Kerala’s Russia House (Pic: ANI AFP)


Russian people living in Kerala, including tourists, voted in Russia’s presidential election at a booth set up in the Russian House, the country’s honorary consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. This is the third time the Russian House has hosted ballot casting.


Across the enormous country’s 11 time zones, the bulk of votes in the Russian presidential election will be cast over three days, beginning on Friday and ending on March 17. Early voting began on March 1, including in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.


With President Vladimir Putin’s political rivals either imprisoned or living abroad, Russia is currently engaged in a bloody conflict with Ukraine.


Leonid Slutsky of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladislav Davankov of the New People Party, and Nikolay Kharitonov of the Communist Party are the three contenders running against Putin. They are all supposed to be pro-Kremlin, leaving Putin with virtually little opposition.


Can a big victory in an election be too big?


Depends on who you ask. Putin will win without a doubt, but the Kremlin, its detractors, and international observers are very interested in how it will happen. Putin insists that the country is unified behind the war effort and will vote on the day of the election in what he calls a “patriotic manifestation.”


In a video speech to the country that was made public on Thursday, Putin stated, “I am confident you realize what a difficult period our country is going through, what complex challenges we are facing in almost all areas.”


After a referendum the year before had given him the opportunity to reset the clock on his term limitations, Putin signed a law in 2021 that permitted him to seek two more terms as president, possibly prolonging his reign until 2036.


This election will mark the beginning of the first of two additional terms.


He has effectively served as the country’s head of state throughout the entirety of the twenty-first century, changing the rules and conventions of Russia’s political system to extend and strengthen his power.


This already makes him Russia’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.


How did Navalny’s death affect the run-up to the election?


The timing of the passing of Russia’s most well-known critic of Putin, Alexey Navalny, served to highlight the influence the president has over domestic affairs.


In one of Navalny’s last court appearances before his death, he exhorted prison employees to “vote against Putin.”


My recommendation is to cast your ballot for any candidate except Putin. On February 8, he stated, “All you have to do to vote against Putin is to vote for any other candidate.”


Thousands of mourners gather in Moscow to bid farewell to Navalny
Thousands of mourners gather in Moscow to bid farewell to Navalny, on March 1, 2024.  (Representational image. AFP)


His death cast a foreboding shadow over the campaign. Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s widow, urged the European Union to “not recognize the elections” in an emotional speech to its Foreign Affairs Council a few days after her husband’s death.


Subsequently, despite the possibility of being arrested by Russian authorities, thousands of people attended Navalny’s burial in Moscow.


Navalnaya has asked Russians to vote at noon on March 17, the final day of the elections, as a form of protest. In a video released on social media, Navalnaya encouraged Russians they “vote for any candidate besides Putin, ruin your ballot, write Navalny on it.”


She stated that Russians were not required to vote, but may simply arrive at a voting place and leave. The most important aspect was to show up.



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