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Will Putin Maintain His Place in the Kremlin?

15 Mar 2024 21:41

Islam Times - Putin, who is 71 years old, has been in office as President or Prime Minister of Russia since 1999. In this year's elections, he will celebrate his fifth presidential term in order to break the record for the longest presidency.

Amid the third year of conflict in Ukraine and rising tensions with Western nations, Russia is gearing up for presidential elections. Set for March 17, according to Russia's Central Election Commission, the elections will see Vladimir Putin joined by three other contenders: Vladislav Davankov, the Deputy Chairman of the Duma representing the liberal "New People" party; Leonid Slutsky, a parliamentary representative and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party; and Nikolai Kharitonov, a parliamentary representative and candidate of the Communist Party of Russia. Notably, none of these candidates oppose the Ukrainian conflict, all aligning with Kremlin policies.

The Supreme Court of Russia has recently upheld the Election Commission's decision to disqualify Boris Nadezhdin, Putin's sole competitor in the presidential race. Nadezhdin was the lone candidate openly critical of Russia's policies and Putin's actions in Ukraine, often regarded as Putin's primary challenger.

The Russian Election Commission has determined that certain signatures submitted by Nadezhdin are invalid, leading to the rejection of his candidacy for the presidential elections. His legal challenges against the Election Commission's decisions were dismissed by the Russian Supreme Court. Prior to Nadezhdin, Ekaterina Dontsova, an anti-war figure, was also disqualified from competing against Putin in the 2024 presidential elections for similar reasons.

Putin, aged 71, who has held office as President or Prime Minister of Russia since 1999, is set to mark his fifth presidential term in this year's elections, aiming to surpass the record for the longest presidency. Having won four presidential elections already, he is expected to continue leading Russia from the Kremlin. Should he emerge victorious, constitutional reforms extending the presidential term will enable him to govern Russia for another six years, constituting his fifth presidential term and potentially paving the way for a sixth term in 2030.

In the perspective of Russian Federation supporters, Putin is seen as a political figure who has safeguarded Russia from disintegration, overseeing billionaire oligarchs, and maintaining control over separatist movements in Chechnya. Putin's supporters regard him as the consolidator of Russian territories, citing actions such as recognizing separatist regions like Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, annexing Crimea in 2014, and integrating portions of four Russian-speaking regions into Russian territory.

The political and electoral structure in Russia

Russia operates as a federal democratic republic. Its legislative arm, the Federal Assembly, comprises two chambers: the Federation Council and the State Duma. The Federation Council consists of representatives from each federal subject, while members of the State Duma are elected for five-year terms from party lists proportional to the national vote. The President is directly elected by the populace for a six-year term. Constitutional term limits restrict presidents to serving no more than two terms.

However, the constitution's term limits have been subject to significant review since its adoption in 1993, notably with a constitutional amendment in 2020. One such change, supported by over 78% of Russian citizens, allows both Putin and Dmitry Medvedev the possibility of serving as president again, regardless of their previous terms.

According to a February poll conducted by VTsIOM, approximately 79% of Russians plan to vote for Putin. Roughly 112 million Russians aged 18 and older are eligible to vote. Russian citizens living abroad, numbering in the millions, can cast their votes from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to California in the United States, through embassies, consulates, or by mail. A survey by FOM on March 5th indicates that at least 61% of Russians are committed to participating in the electoral process. Official statistics anticipate a satisfactory level of participation.

A more distinct election

The upcoming presidential elections in Russia feature several notable distinctions from previous periods. For instance, for the first time in Russian history, the voting process extends over three days rather than one. Additionally, voters in 29 regions have the opportunity to cast their ballots online, a novelty in the electoral process. Moreover, residents of Crimea and four other regions, namely Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, which were incorporated into Russia following agreements and referendums on September 27, 2022, will participate in these elections.

In these four regions, a five-day referendum was conducted regarding their integration into Russian territory. The Russian government asserts that an overwhelming majority of participants (98%) in these referendums voted in favor of integration. These areas are inhabited by Russian citizens residing in Ukraine. According to the Russian constitution, if none of the candidates manage to secure more than half of the votes, a runoff election will take place featuring the top two candidates, twenty-one days after the initial elections.

Polling data suggests that Putin will easily reclaim control of Russia. A six-year presidency in the Kremlin is crucial for him, given that tensions with NATO over the Ukrainian crisis have escalated to a perilous level, raising the specter of conflict between two sides possessing formidable nuclear arsenals. Putin himself acknowledged this in a recent speech, affirming Russia's readiness for nuclear warfare. Putin's anticipated victory deals a setback to the efforts of America and Europe to undermine his authority by spreading discord and discontent within Russia. Nonetheless, Russians view Putin as the sole figure capable of navigating their country through the turbulent sea of events, and in the upcoming elections, they will reaffirm their trust in him at the ballot box.

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