Russians go through the formality of voting in their country’s presidential elections on Sunday, March 18 — though there can be few doubts as to who the winner will be.
President Vladimir Putin is a shoo-in for his second consecutive—and fourth overall—term as president. His most vocal opponent, Alexei Navalny, has been disqualified from the race, and the other candidates running against Putin have been vetted by the state.
In a month in which China’s National People’s Congress voted near-unanimously to remove restrictions on term length, effectively making Xi Jinping president for life, Russia’s elections warrant close scrutiny. In what is effectively a one-horse race, anything less than an emphatic victory could weaken Putin’s grip on power.
Here are the key details to know about Russia’s presidential election this Sunday:
When is the Russian election?
Russians head to the polls on Sunday, March 18 for a first-round of voting. The date is significant in that it is the fourth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
A second-round vote could be held three weeks later, on Sunday, April 8, if no candidate secures an absolute majority. That’s extremely unlikely, though: in six presidential elections, a second round has only been needed once — in 1996, when incumbent Boris Yeltsin defeated Gennady Zyuganov in a run-off vote.
Unlike in the U.S. or Europe, there is typically little fanfare around Russian elections. Campaigning usually begins a few months before polls open and, as in past years, Putin has shunned televised debates, CNN reports.
In 2012, the polls closed at 8pm local time and Putin claimed victory about two hours later.
Who is challenging Putin?
Seven names beside Putin’s will appear on ballot papers March 18. Although they appear to fan from right to left across the political spectrum, with Putin in the center, no candidate besides the incumbent ranks at above 10% in state-owned polls. These are three of the most prominent outsiders.
Odds-on to place second, according to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, the Communist Party candidate Grudinin is actually something of a capitalist. He is best known for privatizing a state-run strawberry company and converting it into a profitable agricultural enterprise. Grudinin says his farming complex pays its workers fairly, furnishes them with good homes, and provides parks for their children. That, Grudinin argues, serves as a model for how post-Soviet Russia should be run.
A former member of Putin’s United Russia Party, Grudinin has nevertheless been openly critical of corrupt practices at the upper echelons of Russian society. Although state-run polls make him the closest challenger to Putin, they give Grudinin under 8% of the ballot.
Zhirinovsky, a 71-year-old right-wing populist, is famed for his xenophobic outbursts. He won 6% of the presidential vote in 2012; this year, state news network Russia Today has him at a similar 5.6%, according to Business Times International . Despite fiery campaign rhetoric, in parliament, Zhirinovsky staunchly totes the Kremlin’s line.
Journalist and former reality-TV star Sobchak has a startling liberal …read more
Source:: Time – World