Asia / Europe: Russia
Russians go to the polls to vote in presidential contest; Vladimir Putin re-elected with landslide support
A presidential election was set to be held in Russia on March 18, 2018. The president in Russia is elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); there is no vice president; if the president dies in office, cannot exercise his powers because of ill health, is impeached, or resigns, the premier serves as acting president until a new presidential election is held, which must be within three months; premier appointed by the president with the approval of the Duma.
Presidential elections were last held in March 2012) and won by Vladimir Putin. It should be noted that Putin served as president for two terms from 2000 to 2008. At the time, presidential terms were four year stints; they have since been changed to six year terms. In 2008, Putin was succeeded as president by Dmitry Medvedev, but remained in government as prime minister. Medvedev held the office of president from 2008 to 2012 when Putin returned to the fore as president following elections and Medvedev, in something of a role reversal, returned to the post of prime minister.
Now, in 2018, Putin would be seeking re-election for a second consecutive term in office and a fourth term overall. A first round of voting would take place on March 18, 2018. If no one candidate secured an absolute majority of the votes, then a second round would ensue three weeks later, on April 8, 2018.
Polling data and conventional wisdom indicated that Putin was on track for re-election victory. His main rivals would be Pavel Grudinin of the Communist Party and Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party, neither of which was expected to perform strongly at the polls.
Perhaps the only Russian n politician with the cachet to really challenge Putin was Alexei Navalny, but he was prohibited from is barred from contesting the presidential election due to a corruption conviction that many view as politically-motivated.
On election day, following the end of voting, the Russian election came to a conclusion with no mystery about who would emerge victorious. State-controlled exit polls indicated that Putin was on track to capture 76.6 percent of the vote share. That number was slightly higher than the 70 percent support shown in pre-election polling.
The landslide level of support for Putin was viewed by some as evidence of his successful bid to leverage nationalist sentiment. Even his move to annex the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, which has been condemned as illegal by the international community, was lauded at home as an act of patriotism. Meanwhile, others have pointed to the fact that there was really no firce competition in the presidential race and many voters saw no poont in choosing an alternative.
The truth, however, was that the political climate was not particularly hospitable to rivals of Putin. Indeed, the media itself was under tight Kremlin control. To that end, critics have noted that Russian media is dominated by pro-Putinist sentiment, which bolsters Russian support for him and offer rivals little exposure.
Regardless of these structural limits to challenging Putinism in Russia, the outcome of the presidential election in 2018 was that Vladimir Putin had extended his grip om power in Russia for another six years. In a victory speech, Putin declared, "We are a great big team together and I am a member of your team."
-- March 19, 2018
Denise Youngblood Coleman, PhD.
President and Editor in Chief