Russian Presidential Elections: What to Expect from Vladimir Putin Amid Ukraine War?

71-year-old Vladimir Putin is expected to easily win the Russian presidential election to be held on March 15-17 and retain power until 2030.

Regardless of the predicted results, the world will be watching the Russian elections against the backdrop of the attack on Ukraine.

Let’s take a look at three things in this year’s Russian election.

wartime voting

The Russian-Ukraine war, or as Putin called it “a special military operation,” is the most visible reality of Russian politics after 2022.

While many within Russia want peace and disintegration, there is a section of people that supports war, thus, the government’s ability to balance the two is being tested. Nevertheless, the strain it has placed on the country’s resources is much greater than that resulting from the war.

More votes for Putin

In high-stakes elections, Putin’s officials will try to gain an electoral advantage for their leader, and minimize any upsets. Reports suggest the Kremlin expects turnout to be at least 70%, and the vote for Putin to be at least 80% – higher than his 76.7% share from 2018.

About 79% of Russians intend to vote for Putin, according to a February survey by Kremlin-controlled pollster VTsIOM.

Political observers and agencies are not interested in the results of elections, but rather in how these results are shaped during a war.

According to a report ConversationLocal officials in Russia pressure state employees and employees of corporations to vote en masse.

Recently leaked documents obtained by the Estonian website Delphi reveal how Putin’s technocratic domestic policy czar, Sergei Kiriyenko, allegedly pre-rigged the elections by flooding pro-Kremlin and anti-West content on TV, in films and online. Spent over $1 billion.

Reports also suggest that overt coercive methods were used by the Kremlin to pressure Ukrainians to vote and gain citizenship as part of the Russian invasion.

silencing the opposition

The death of Alexei Navalny, a longtime critic of Vladimir Putin, in February this year underlined political repression in the country. The extended mourning for Navalny at home and abroad shows that there is still a group of people in Russia hoping for an alternative.

Two more opposition figures – Ilya Yashin and Vladimir Kaza-Murza – have been sentenced to eight and a half years and 25 years in prison respectively for criticizing Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Conversation It was highlighted that around 116,000 Russians faced political repression since 2018.

Compared to the last election, in which there was one candidate from the ‘liberal opposition’, this time there are four leaders at the ballot box, and none of them are anti-war figures.

Does this election really matter?

Abbas Galyamov, a political analyst who used to be Putin’s speechwriter, described the vote as one where “multiple choice has been replaced by a simple, dichotomous choice: ‘Are you for Putin or against him? Are?”, and said that it would be a “referendum on the issue of war, and a vote for Putin would become a vote for war.”

Before his death, Navalny had said from behind bars, “Putin sees these elections as a referendum on the approval of his actions.” Referendum on approval of war, “Let’s break their plans and make sure that no one is interested in a fake result on March 17, but the whole of Russia saw and understood: the majority wishes that Putin must step down.”

What’s new in the voting process?

This is the first time that elections in Russia are being held over three days instead of one. Voters from 29 areas will cast their votes online.

In Russia, 112 million people aged 18 and over are eligible to vote.

People living in Crimea and parts of Ukraine will also vote.

Millions of Russian citizens living abroad – from the Russia-leased space port of Baikonur in southern Kazakhstan to California in the US – can also vote at embassies, consulates or by mail.

The preliminary result is expected to be declared on March 19, with the final result coming out on March 29.