Russia’s Upcoming Elections: The Main Challengers of Putin’s Candidacy
By admin January 26, 2018

On December 6, 2017 Russia’s incumbent president Vladimir Putin announced his intention to seek re-election once again. If Putin wins in April, 2018, he will serve another 6-year term as Russia’s president. Despite Russia’s economic challenges and international criticism of president’s crackdown on civil society, Putin has had consistently high approval rates among the electorate, around 40% or higher.

Although Putin is expected to win, with the rival candidates scoring considerably lower than him in polling results, the upcoming elections are not expected to be problem-free.

One of the news associated with the upcoming presidential elections was that of Russia’s supreme court upholding a ban on Alexei Navalny from running for president. Navalny is an anti-corruption lawyer and an opposition leader who rallied thousands of people against Putin’s government twice in 2017. Now, after the expected ruling, Navalny claims the move is illegal and intends to appeal the decision in the European Court of Human Rights. If Navalny does not succeed to overrule the Supreme Court’s decision, he will not be allowed to run for any public office in Russia till 2028. The Supreme Court’s decision was based on Navalny’s previous fraud conviction, which, the opposition leader claims, to have been politically motivated and designed to deter his political efforts against Putin.

With a very low chance for Navalny’s run, Russia is faced with a choice between Putin and his low-polling rivals, one of whom – former reality-tv star and a liberal journalist Ksenia Sobchak –many analysts claim has been asked by the incumbent’s administration to run for president. The candidate herself refutes the rumors as lies, claiming she does not need president’s blessing.  Despite her claims, Putin’s spokesperson Peskov told that Sobchak had all the criteria to run even before she announced her candidacy and started to collect the 300,000 signatures she needs from Russian citizens to register as a candidate.

Ksenia Sobchak is the daughter of Vladimir Putin’s political mentor, and has participated in opposition protests standing for a vaguely phrased change platform. In the announcement of her run for presidency, Sobchak noted that the new generation has grown up during the last 17 years and wants a reformed, European Russia. Many critics of Putin, among them Navalny, claim that Sobchak’s move is orchestrated to confer legitimacy on the otherwise dreary election. A move that many analysts believe has been done before in 2012 with Mikhail Prokhorov’s presidency run.

With Putin’s only rivals being Sobchak who is running with a promise of vague change and no direct criticism to Putin’s administration, and candidates as Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the nationalist candidate from the Liberal Democratic Party and Pavel Grudinin from the Communist Party, there are slim chances of real challenge to Putin’s candidacy. The only challenge that is currently presented is Navalny’s call to Russians to boycott the elections, which Putin said to be dangerous with the possibility to lead Russia to a similar situation as Ukraine after the 2014 demonstrations.

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