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Mar 15, 2024, 7:05am EDT
politicsEurope
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Russians head to polls in election Putin is certain to win

Insights from The Conversation, The Atlantic, The Moscow Times, and Meduza

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FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin walks to deliver his annual address to the Federal Assembly, in Moscow, Russia, February 29, 2024. Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin via REUTERS
Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin via REUTERS
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The News

Russians began voting Friday in a three-day presidential election that Vladimir Putin is all but certain to win.

Putin has been in power as president or prime minister of Russia since 2000, longer than any ruler since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. He has become increasingly authoritarian in this time, changing the country’s laws to allow his continued runs for office.

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Not an election if the winner is certain

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Sources:  
The Conversation, The Atlantic

There are few dissidents left in Russia that can actually challenge Putin’s bid for a fifth presidential term. In recent years, his opponents have likely been killed by the Kremlin or forced into the margins of Russian society, Russian foreign policy expert Matthew Sussex noted in The Conversation. Despite this, “the Kremlin has persisted with the charade of free elections throughout Putin’s rule,” Sussex wrote, but “those who have proven too popular have found themselves disqualified.” It’s probably more accurate to call the voting in Russia “an ‘election-style event’” instead, global politics scholar Brian Klaas wrote in The Atlantic. Words matter, he argued, and “a rigged contest marks the death of democracy and renders all the other essential pillars irrelevant, because the people no longer have a meaningful say over who governs.”

Some dissidents plan to spoil ballots

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Source:  
The Moscow Times

Voters who oppose the Kremlin have few options during the election. Several Russians described plans to spoil their ballots in a form of protest, independent Russian outlet The Moscow Times reported. One anti-war advocacy group said that while the tactic is controversial, “traditional methods [of voting] do not bring results.” Some Russians will boycott the elections entirely, but others plan to flood polling stations at noon local time as part of the “noon against Putin” campaign, organized by supporters of late dissident Alexei Navalny. His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, has called on supporters to either spoil their ballots or boycott the election by standing in front of polling stations but refusing to cast a vote. “I urge everyone to come to his memory,” she said.

The Kremlin is angling for record turnout

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Source:  
Meduza

The Russian government started preparations for the 2024 vote in late 2022, Russian independent media outlet Meduza reported at the time. Sources that spoke to the outlet said that the Kremlin had discussed Putin being the sole candidate standing for election, with no liberal candidates expected to even make an appearance for theatrics. While some strategists pushed for the vote’s postponement — using the war in Ukraine as an excuse to impose martial law and cancel the election — Putin reportedly “likes to see the results of popular support,” a source told Meduza. The Kremlin is hoping to see “record” votes going to Putin.

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