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Russia - Presidential Election - 2018

Russia's presidential elections took place 18 March 2018. If in the first round no candidate attained an absolute majority of the votes (more than half), then a second round will be held three weeks later. A nearly complete ballot count showed Putin winning 76.7 percent of the vote -- more than he received in any of his three previous elections and the highest percentage handed to any post-Soviet Russian leader. The other seven candidates were far behind. While tainted by allegations of fraud -- in some cases backed by webcam footage appearing to show blatant ballot-box stuffing -- the resounding win sets Moscow's longest-ruling leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin up for six more years in office amid severely strained ties with the West.

Russian elections have turned into largely empty legitimization rituals in which everybody appears to be just going through the motions. Ahead of the vote, Russian media cited unidentified Kremlin sources as saying the government was aiming for a turnout of 70 percent, with 70 percent of the vote going to Putin. Voter turnout stood at 67.47 percent, or 73.36 million people, Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said on 19 March. But according to the Kremlin-connected VTsIOM polling agency, turnout was below 65 percent.

Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice, Michael Georg Link, special coordinator and leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) short-term observer mission, told reporters in Moscow. But where the legal framework restricts many fundamental freedoms and the outcome is not in doubt, elections almost lose their purpose -- empowering people to choose their leaders, he added.

In December 2016 Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption crusader and relentless Kremlin critic, announced he would compete to succeed Vladimir Putin, whose term as president ends in less than two years. "There have been no true elections in Russia since 1996," said Navalny in announcing his candidacy. "I will participate in the election, and I will fight for victory."

Andrey Vinokurov wrote for Gazeta.ru on 04 January 2017: "In political life 2017 will be the year of initial preparations for the 2018 presidential elections. Officials are worried by the turnout in the main federal campaign of 2016 -- the Duma elections -- which was the lowest in the history of modern-day Russia. Official figures show that it was just 47.88 per cent, while a number of independent observers think that it was actually lower, in the region of 35 per cent. This figure has never dropped below 50 per cent before. Moreover, absolutely all the main players in these elections saw their voter base shrink.

"For example, the United Russia party's results in percentage terms were 54.2 per cent. This is greater than the party's percentage in 2011 (49.32 per cent). But looking at the total number of votes cast, then it turns out that back then the party won far more votes: 32.3m in 2011 compared with 28.5m in 2016. The party has lost 3.8m voters. This is 2.5 per cent of the total population of Russia. In comparison with 2011, the figure is 11.7 per cent lower."

The popularity rating of the centrist conservative United Russia party has reached this years high so far of 51.1 percent, with nationalist party LDPR and Communists taking second and third places respectively, according to VTSIOM. United Russias electoral rating fell to 48.7 percent in early February but it was on the increase throughout the month and in February 20-26 reached 51.1 percent, reads the state-run polling agencys report released on 02 March 2017. On the same week the average electoral rating of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia was 12.9 percent and for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in was 10.9 percent, the report read.

In the same research, VTSIOM evaluated the publics trust of politicians. President Vladimir Putin ranked first with 52.6 percent, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was second with 21.1 percent and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ranked third with 18.4 percent. Opposition politicians, such as the head of the Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov and the leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky topped the anti-trust rating 10.6 and 26 percent of respondents respectively said they did not find their statements credible.

A Russian court sentenced opposition leader Alexei Navalny to 15 days in prison, a day after he and hundreds of other protesters were detained at an anti-corruption rally. Navalny was taken to a Moscow court 27 March 2017 hours before the Kremlin publicly called the protests a "provocation" to violence, and accused organizers of paying young people to attend the rallies. The court said he was guilty of resisting police orders. Earlier, he was fined the equivalent of $350 for organizing an unauthorized protest.

Tens of thousands of Russians demonstrated in dozens of cities across the country 26 March 2017 in support of a call by Navalny for accountability among Russia's elite. Navalny said on his official website that 99 Russian cities planned to protest, but that in 72 of them local authorities did not give permission. More than 1,000 people were arrested in the Moscow demonstrations alone.

Navalny, a Kremlin critic, called the demonstrations after his Foundation for Fighting Corruption released a detailed report accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of amassing a collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards through a shadowy network of non-profit organizations.

The dinosaurs of the Russian political scene, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the unwavering leader of the Liberal Democratic Party who will be trying to win the race for the sixth time, and Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party, who nearly defeated Boris Yeltsin in the 1996 run-up, are interestingly joined by TV presenter, opposition journalist Ksenia Sobchak who describes herself as "the against-all candidate." Grigory Yavlinsky from the Democratic Yabloko party has also announced his intention to run. They could be joined by political journalist and singer Ekaterina Gordon, who is set to run as an independent candidate. Businessman Sergei Polonsky, political scientist Andrei Bogdanov, one of the founders of the Nashi movement Boris Yakemenko are among the other candidates.

On 06 December 2017 Russia's incumbent president declared his intention to seek re-election for a second consecutive term in the country's upcoming 2018 election. "I will be proposing my candidacy for the position of president of the Russian Federation," Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with factory workers. "Russia will move only forward, and no one will ever stop it in its progress."

A December 2017 Romir-Gallup poll showed that Putin would secure an overwhelming victory with 75 percent of votes should the vote happen next Sunday: Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov would get eight and seven percent respectively, leaving Sobchak trailing behind with only two percent.

Russias Central Election Commission (CEC) drew a conclusion that between 12 and 15 people could be named as potential candidates for the 2018 presidential election, CEC Secretary Maya Grishina said in a televised interview with the Rossiya24 channel on 14 December 2017. "Activity is rather high and there are more or less famous people. Along with this, one should understand that we have over 60 political parties and each has the right to nominate a candidate," she said. "According to our estimates, there are about 12-15 potential candidates. But I think it is a start. When people hear that the presidential race has begun, more initiatives will appear."

Among potential candidates for the presidential race (who have announced their intentions), are current President Vladimir Putin, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Communists of Russia party Maksim Suraikin, Presidential Ombudsman for Entrepreneurs Rights and Party of Growth leader Boris Titov, political scientist and Social Technology Center head Andrei Bogdanov, socialite Ksenia Sobchak, Womens Dialogue party leader Yelena Semerikova, businessman Sergei Polonsky, singer and human rights activist Yekaterina Gordon and some dignitaries.

Russias Civil Initiative Party officially nominated journalist and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak as its candidate in the March 18 election. Sobchak, 35, is the daughter of late Anatoly Sobchak, the first democratically elected mayor of St. Petersburg who was once a political mentor to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

On 25 December 2017, the CEC denied opposition leader Alexei Navalny the right to participate in the upcoming presidential elections, citing his previous conviction. Navalny called for a boycott of next year's presidential election after being barred from running over corruption charges.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 27 December 2017 submitted to the Central Election Committee (CEC) documents needed to officially start his 2018 presidential campaign. He chose to run as an independent candidate and therefore, after the necessary examination of the authenticity of submitted documents, will be allowed to start collecting no less than 300,000 signatures from his supporters to be registered as a candidate in the race.

Parties represented in the parliament, the ruling United Russia, the Communist Party of Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Just Russia, can register their candidates without collecting signatures in their support. The United Russia and Just Russia have decided to support Putin and will not propose an alternative candidate.

Vote

Official data from Russias March 18 presidential election shows that many polling stations reported turnout in percentages ending in zero or "5" -- a phenomenon that a prominent researcher says demonstrates clear manipulations at the ballot box. The analysis by Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist by training who is renowned for his studies of Russian elections, suggests President Vladimir Putin may have received more than 10 million falsified votes nationwide in his landslide victory.

In fair elections, statisticians would expect the graph to form a bell curve whose peak is close to the average turnout for the election nationwide. Instead, the graph shows that in precincts reporting anomalously high turnout, Putin received a seemingly disproportionate number of the extra votes. Shpilkins graph shows Putins vote curve becoming jarringly jagged as it moves right, with spikes at round turnout figures such as 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, and 95.

Shpilkin says the scale of the alleged falsifications appears to be the lowest since after Putins first reelection in 2004. The visualization of this phenomenon when plotted out has been dubbed Churovs saw after former Central Election Commission head Vladimir Churov, who oversaw several elections rife with fraud allegations.




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