Russian President Vladimir Putin today revealed the worst kept secret by the Kremlin, which will run for re-election in March of next year, which could perpetuate it in power until 2030.
“I understand that now I cannot do anything else. I will present my candidacy in the elections for president of the Russian Federation,” he said at the end of a ceremony on the occasion of the Day of the Hero of the Fatherland.
The opposition and analysts see the March 17, 2024 elections as a plebiscite on the war in Ukraine, in which neither the Kremlin nor the Russian Army have managed to meet the objectives set in February 2022.
According to the Kremlin, Putin, who has been in power since 2000, did not consult with other foreign leaders before announcing his decision.
All the media expected Putin to announce his candidacy during the annual press conference on December 14 – the first since the start of the military campaign – but it has been brought forward almost a week. “I will not hide that there are different times and different thoughts. But now, you are right. Now we are at a time when a decision must be made,” he said.
Putin presided over a ceremony in the Kremlin on Friday in which he decorated several soldiers with combat experience in the neighboring country, whom he praised for “completely ending the myth of the invulnerability” of Western weapons.
At the end of the event and in response to questions from his interlocutors, he announced that he will run for president for the fifth time, a decision that his spokesperson described as “spontaneous.” “In response he said that there are different, difficult and complicated times, but that at this moment he will be with the people and will run for re-election,” said Artiom Zhoga, speaker of the Parliament of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Zhoga, who apologized if he had violated any electoral protocol, asked him to remain in the Kremlin “on behalf of the citizens” of the annexed Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
Great popular support, according to official polls
According to the poll published by the Public Opinion Fund, 70% of Russians advocate that Putin run and only 8% that he abandon politics. Furthermore, 78.5% of Russians trust the current tenant of the Kremlin and 75.8% approve of his management at the head of the State.
Political scientists anticipated that Putin will receive “a level of support greater than 70%”, while some predicted that it will even exceed 2018’s 76.7%. “Putin confirmed that at a time of election and historic challenge, he is willing to act based on the interests of the country and its citizens,” said Valentina Matviyenko, president of the Senate, which on Thursday called presidential elections for March 17, 2024.
The Kremlin’s United Russia party, which controls two-thirds of the seats in parliament, immediately declared its support for the Russian leader, although Putin is likely to run as an independent. “United Russia undoubtedly supports Putin’s candidacy for president of the Russian Federation and will do everything possible for the victory of our leader in the elections,” said Sergei Nevérov, vice president of the Duma or chamber of deputies.
Three days of voting, suspicions of fraud
The Central Election Commission (CEC) announced on Friday that Russians will vote for three days, from March 15 to 17, 2024, despite opposition criticism of the Kremlin. “Voting over three days has become traditional for our electoral system,” announced CEC President Ela Pamfilova.
He recalled that this mechanism was used “for the first time” during the pandemic, in reference to the controversial constitutional referendum that now allows Putin to serve two more presidential terms of six years each.
The opposition to the Kremlin maintains that the possibility of voting for 72 hours promotes official fraud and makes it difficult to control the scrutinyjust like electronic voting.
In mid-August the Russian Justice ordered the arrest of head of main independent election observer of this country, Golos, in an attempt to prevent him from supervising next year’s presidential elections. “In the world there are no analogues of such total socio-political control, there simply isn’t any,” admitted the president of the commission.
The extra-parliamentary opposition led by the imprisoned Alexei Navalny decided not to boycott the elections, an option supported by other opponents such as the exiled chess player Gari Kasparov.
Meanwhile, the communists and ultranationalists, who do have parliamentary representation and also support the Russian military campaign, are expected to present their own candidates in the coming weeks.