Friday Briefing: Putin’s Re-Election

The Kremlin has ensured that Vladimir Putin faces no real competition.Credit…Anatoly Maltsev/EPA, via Shutterstock

Why Russia’s election matters

Russians begin voting for president today, but there is no suspense about the result: Vladimir Putin, 71, is certain to be declared the overwhelming victor.

The election, which will take place over three days, is held as the war in Ukraine rages on and the Russian opposition tries to turn grief from Aleksei Navalny’s death into momentum to protest Putin. The three other candidates on the ballot do not pose a challenge.

Since he was first appointed in 2000, Putin has consolidated power and changed the constitution to extend his rule. If Putin lasts two more terms, until 2036, he will surpass the 29-year rule of Joseph Stalin.

“This election is a ritual,” Anton Troianovski, our Moscow bureau chief, told me. “It’s a very important ritual to the functioning of Putin’s state and system of power. But you also shouldn’t expect it to change all that much.”

Here’s more from my conversation with Anton.

What is Russia trying to accomplish with this election?

Anton: The goal is to bestow a new degree of public legitimacy on Putin for his fifth term — and, very importantly, to portray Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as having overwhelming public support.

The Kremlin has always used these elections — even though they are not free and fair — to say that Putin has all this power because all these people support him.

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