Russian election:Putin’s fifth term as president was always a certainty

Russian election:Putin’s fifth term as president was always a certainty

The Kremlin’s meticulous orchestration ensured that Vladimir Putin faced no credible opponent, cementing his inevitable landslide victory for a fifth term. At a distinguished military awards ceremony last December, the 71-year-old Putin formally announced his candidacy for the presidency, a position he has held for 24 years. Engaging with soldiers honored for their participation in Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, Putin’s announcement echoed through the halls of power.

 

Despite his enduring tenure, marked by strategic shifts between the presidency and prime ministership, Putin’s rule remains unchallenged, buoyed by amendments to reset presidential term limits. Through his tenure, Putin has methodically consolidated power, neutralizing dissent and eliminating potential threats to his authority. Despite the predictable outcome of the election, the Kremlin diligently pursued the appearance of legitimacy, emphasizing voter turnout as evidence of popular support.

While previous elections were marred by reports of irregularities, this year’s voting process was streamlined, achieving a turnout exceeding 74%. In the contested regions of Ukraine under Russian control, polls opened early, accompanied by social media campaigns urging voter participation. The ballot offered a semblance of choice, featuring candidates aligned with Kremlin policies, effectively sidelining any genuine opposition.

Notably, Moscow councillor Boris Nadezhdin’s brief bid for candidacy sparked fleeting optimism among opposition circles before being swiftly quashed by election authorities. Televised debates, sans Putin’s participation, offered little substantive discourse, focusing instead on choreographed interactions portraying Putin as a man of the people. His state-of-the-nation address, predominantly addressing domestic issues, highlighted Russia’s socioeconomic challenges, including poverty, education, and healthcare.

Despite two decades in power, Putin’s ability to address these issues remains unfulfilled, with a significant portion of the budget allocated to military and security expenditures. The election, widely criticized as neither free nor fair, saw opposition candidates resorting to caricatured campaign videos in a bid for attention. Amid sporadic protests and symbolic demonstrations against the regime, the overarching narrative remained one of perpetuated power.

As Putin’s reelection looms, dissenting voices amplify their opposition, with the “Noon against Putin” protests urging voters to reject his leadership. Spearheaded by the late Alexei Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, the campaign seeks to foster solidarity among dissidents rather than effecting tangible change. On March 18th, Russians will awaken to Putin’s renewed mandate, marked by a predictable display of gratitude and resilience. Yet, beneath the veneer of democratic procedure, the reality of Putin’s unassailable authority endures, encapsulating the enduring illusion of Russian democracy under his rule.

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