The focus is not on who will win the presidential election, but on how many votes Vladimir Putin will win the election

Russia: Putin over the election

Periodistas y observadores asisten a la inauguración del Centro de Información de la Comisión Electoral Central de Rusia en vísperas de las elecciones presidenciales, en Moscú, el 14 de marzo de 2024 – <strong>PHOTO/STRINGER/AFP&nbsp;</strong>
Journalists and observers attend the opening of the Information Centre of Russia's Central Election Commission ahead of the presidential elections in Moscow on 14 March 2024 - PHOTO/STRINGER/AFP

Although the official polls in Russia have not proven to be very reliable, before the results of the upcoming elections are known, it is already known, both inside and outside the country, who will be the next winner at the polls. Vladimir Putin, the perennial favourite, will most likely begin his fifth term as president of the world's largest country in just a few days. 

  1. When will the elections take place? 
  2. How to vote 
  3. Candidates
  4. A different election 
  5. Who can vote? 
  6. Russian electoral system
  7. Counting the votes 
  8. Russian mood gauge 
  9. Fraud 
  10. Putin's popularity 
  11. The current national landscape 
  12. The 17 March appeal 

When will the elections take place? 

Voters will be able to cast their ballots from Friday 15 March. They will have three days in which to vote, so the polls will be open until Sunday 17 March.  

As for early voting and postal voting, these have already begun. Since 25 February citizens have been able to submit their choice in remote areas. Overseas voting opened on 1 March in all states where Russia has a diplomatic and consular presence.  

El presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin - RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin - RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/AFP

How to vote 

Polling stations will be opened in the country so that all voters can exercise their right to vote. 

It should be noted that mobile polling stations will also be set up in the four annexed regions of Ukraine where Russia is trying to exert its control following the invasion of Ukrainian territory, namely Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhya and Kherson.  

In addition, online voting is being introduced for the first time.  

Candidates

It is well known that Vladimir Putin is standing in the elections, but he is not the only one.  

Nikolai Kharitonov is running for the Communist Party, Leonid Slutsky for the National Liberal Party and Vladislav Davankov for the New Party.  

The only pacifist candidate will not participate. Only Boris Nadezhdin was betting on negotiating peace with Ukraine, but he has been vetoed on the pretext that he does not have enough endorsements to be registered.   

Esta foto de archivo facilitada por el tribunal del distrito de Babushkinsky el 12 de febrero de 2021, muestra al líder opositor ruso Alexei Navalny, acusado de difamar a un veterano de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, de pie dentro de una celda de cristal durante una vista judicial en Moscú. El líder opositor ruso Alexei Navalny falleció el 16 de febrero de 2024 en la colonia penitenciaria del Ártico donde cumplía una condena de 19 años, informó el servicio penitenciario federal de Rusia en un comunicado – PHOTO/AFP PHOTO/MOSCOW'S BABUSHKINSKY DISTRICT COURT PRESS SERVICE/HANDOUT
 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died on 16 February 2024 in the Arctic prison colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence – PHOTO/AFP PHOTO/MOSCOW'S BABUSHKINSKY DISTRICT COURT PRESS SERVICE/HANDOUT

In addition, opposition leader Aleksei Navalni died in February this year. He was the most critical figure of Putin's government and had survived a poisoning in 2020. Until last month he was serving a sentence for extremism in the IK-3 Penal Colony prison (better known as "The Polar Wolf") in Siberia, where he died suddenly.  

A different election 

This will be a different kind of presidential election, as it is the first time the Central Election Commission has extended the election to three consecutive days. The decision was approved by 13 of the 14 members of the Russian electoral body, as announced by its chairwoman Ella Pamfilova.  

This method of three-day voting was first seen in the 2020 constitutional referendum which, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, sought to avoid overcrowding.  

Who can vote? 

All Russian citizens aged 18 and over are eligible to vote, except if they are in prison. 

Imagen de votación – PHOTO/JENS BUTTNER/DPA/dpa Picture-Alliance vía AFP
Voting image – PHOTO/JENS BUTTNER/DPA/dpa Picture-Alliance vía AFP

There are around 112.3 million voters in Russia and the Ukrainian areas now under Moscow's rule. In addition, 1.9 million people will vote from abroad. Finally, in Baikonur, a city in southern Kazakhstan administered by Russia, the figure is 11,924 voters.   

Russian electoral system

Russia has a two-round election system. However, this year it is expected that there will be only one round in which Putin would win a landslide victory by an absolute majority.  

However, in the event that none of the candidates manages to garner more than half of the votes required to beat the others, a run-off election would be held three weeks after the first round.

El presidente ruso Vladimir Putin - PHOTO/FILE
Russian President Vladimir Putin - PHOTO/FILE

Counting the votes 

As soon as the polls close, the counting of the votes will begin. The results will be announced in the country by 19 March at the latest. The rest of the territories of the Russian Federation will have to announce the results by 21 March. The final results will be announced on 28 March, provided there is no second round.  

Russian mood gauge 

As approved in the 2020 constitutional referendum, Putin can still serve two more presidential terms of six years each. For that reason he is allowed to stand again in this year's elections. 

The outcome is not expected to be any different from previous elections. All indications are that Putin will remain in power, but it is not that, but by how many votes he will win.  

But the importance of the elections lies in whether or not Russians support the decisions that their president has been making in recent years. As Navalni's collaborators stated in a communiqué, Putin sees these elections as a referendum on the conflict with Ukraine.  

Un cañón autopropulsado ucraniano, después de disparar varias rondas de artillaría contra las líneas rusas en el frente de combate de Donetsk - MARIA SENOVILLA
A Ukrainian self-propelled gun, after firing several artillery rounds against Russian lines on the Donetsk front line - MARIA SENOVILLA

Of course, although the aim is to find out whether the head of state has the support of his people, it is important that the results are favourable, and everything points to this being the case. "The results of the vote will be falsified, but our task is to make sure that this manipulation is exposed," said aides to the former main opposition leader.  

Fraud 

Control of the electoral process is reserved exclusively for the national authorities and, of course, there will be no trace of opposition election monitors at the polling stations. Added to this is the fact that this will be a three-day election.  

Nor can we overlook the severe repression of the opposition, the fact that certain candidates have been directly censured, or the deaths close to the elections for unknown reasons.  

All in all, it is not very difficult to see the results of the vote count being favourable to the current power in the Kremlin. 

A group of anonymous participants in a closed seminar for deputy governors and heads of regional election commissions told RBK Russian News that Moscow is looking for a turnout of more than 70% and for the result to support Putin by more than 75%.  

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believes that voter turnout will be falsified in order to make the Ukrainian contest appear legitimate to the international community.    

It is not in the government's interest to be accused of rigging. Otherwise Putin's legitimacy would be damaged. Therefore, no matter how likely vote rigging is, avoiding abstention will be one of its main objectives.  

Putin's popularity 

It is not easy to gauge real opinion in a nation where polls are closely watched and where there is widespread fear of criticising the Kremlin.   

El presidente ruso Vladimir Putin asiste a un concierto que conmemora el octavo aniversario de la anexión rusa de Crimea en el estadio Luzhniki de Moscú el 18 de marzo de 2022 - AFP/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a concert commemorating the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on March 18, 2022 - AFP/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV

Even so, the Levada Centre, a non-governmental polling and sociological research organisation, has produced a Putin approval rating, in which society's support for the current Russian president stands at 80%. The figure represents a higher approval rating than before the war with Ukraine, so, according to the data, Putin's popularity has grown.  

Although Putin's figure is controversial around the world, analysts attribute Putin's approval to the fact that he was able to steer the country back on track after the Cold War and at a difficult economic time.  

The current national landscape 

Russia is going through a delicate period. To begin with, it is at war with Ukraine. Western countries have responded by imposing heavy sanctions on the vast nation. As a consequence, financial intermediation and trade have been affected, resulting in an inevitable economic contraction in Russia.

The 17 March appeal 

Yulia Navalnaya, Aleksei Navalni's widow, has called for a vote against Vladimir Putin.  

When she learned that her husband had died, Navalnaya gave a speech calling for justice. "Putin and all those around him, his friends and the government, know that they will be held accountable for what they did to our country, to my family and to my husband," she said through tears. 

El cuerpo del fallecido líder opositor ruso Alexei Navalni es visto durante un servicio fúnebre en la iglesia Madre de Dios Apaga Mis Dolores en Moscú, el 1 de marzo de 2024 – PHOTO/AFP
The body of the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalni is seen during a funeral service at the Mother of God Extinguish My Sorrows church in Moscow on March 1, 2024 - PHOTO/AFP

So that Navalni's efforts will not be in vain, his wife has decided to continue the cause she once started. Her goal is to defeat the Kremlin, and to this end, on Wednesday 6 March she released a video on social networks in which she said: "We must go to the schools on the same day and at the same time, on 17 March at noon".

She called on the community to "defeat evil" and achieve a democratic and free state. She is convinced that, with this simple action, many will be able to realise that they are not alone; that there are more citizens willing to stand up to the regime.  

The media already refer to her as "the first lady of the Russian opposition".   

We will have to wait until Sunday to see if Yulia Navalnaya's words have served to collapse the elections.    

The Kremlin faces its first challenge.