Millennium Post

Russian election 2018

Russian election 2018
Presidential elections anywhere have plenty of excitement, expectation and suspense preceding them but the ongoing "contest" in Russia has none of the zing associated with such events. But that is to be expected since the results are known to everyone. By all reckoning and polls, the seemingly invincible Vladimir Putin is through. True, Russians began voting on Sunday in a Presidential election widely expected to cement President Putin's power for another six years. 109 million voters are eligible to cast ballots across the 11 time zones of the world's biggest country. It is, indeed, an enormous logistical undertaking for a vote that is essentially a one-sided affair. There is no meaningful opposition in the running, and Putin's fiercest political opponent, Alexei Navalny, has been barred from competing. Despite a dull campaign, the 65-year-old President is the clear front-runner. Putin is seeking a fourth term as President and is already the country's longest-serving leader since the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. A win would mean a Putin-led Russia until 2024, after which he is constitutionally obliged to stand down. But who knows what may happen thereafter. The constitution may be suitably altered for the erstwhile KGB agent to continue as long as he wishes to. But that may be tantamount to speculating at this stage. As matters stand, while the vote may seem like a repeat of the Putin-dominated 2012 election, this one is particularly charged with anti-Western sentiment. With few election-related events to report on, Russians are seeing more news of the country's diplomatic crises with the UK and United States. But the Kremlin is more concerned about turnout. The uneventful campaign period and lack of competition have left many Russians uninspired. Navalny had called for a boycott of the election since he was squeezed out of the race.
A wave of anti-government protests in the past year also suggests growing fatigue with corruption scandals seeping through the Kremlin and Putin's inner circle of oligarchs.
Nevertheless, Putin is popular among many Russians, who see him as a strongman who lifted the country out of post-Soviet chaos to stability. Polls in the past have also shown that Putin's popularity rises during times of confrontation with the West, so Russians appear to be shrugging off the current diplomatic crises. Conflicts with international powers is unlikely to hurt Putin at home. In fact, he may be banking on confrontation with international players this election. His United Russia party helped parliament move the date of the vote to the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Annexing the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 redefined Russia's role on the world stage and marked the beginning of new, heightened tensions with the West.

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