Russia politics: Quick View - Putin (finally) declares candidacy for presidential election

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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On December 6th Vladimir Putin, the president, declared his candidacy for the March 2018 presidential election while at a rally for the 85th anniversary of the Gorky auto plant in Nizhny Novgorod.


Mr Putin was first elected president in March 2000 and re-elected to a second term in March 2004. A loyal ally, Dmitry Medvedev, won the presidential election in March 2008. Mr Putin returned to the presidency for a third term in May 2012. Following a constitutional change, his latest term will last six years, to 2018.

A handful of challengers have declared their candidacy for the election. Many of them come from the "systemic opposition", such as Gennady Zyuganov (Communist Party of the Russian Federation, CPRF) and Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, LDPR). Media personalities Ksenia Sobchak and Ekaterina Gordon will also run. None of these candidates presents a credible alternative for the majority of the population. According to a poll conducted by the Levada Centre, a Russian polling company, 53% of Russians oppose the idea of having a female president, and 87% cannot think of a credible female candidate.

Aleksei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger and nationalist opposition politician who called for several anti-government protests this year, is barred from running following a second conviction for defrauding Kirovles, a timber company. Even if he were allowed to run, Mr Navalny, who received almost 30% of the vote in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election, has a low level of popularity across Russia.

The main challenge for the authorities will be to prevent a sharp fall in turnout, which would cast doubt on the legitimacy of Mr Putin's popular mandate. This is one of the reasons behind efforts to revitalise the regional leadership with the replacement of poorly performing governors. Mr Putin's administration is believed to want a turnout of about 70% of voters, but a poll by Levada poll shows that only 58% expect to vote. However, even if the authorities do not reach their desired level of turnout, Mr Putin, with popularity above 80% since the start of the Ukrainian conflict in 2014, appears set to win comfortably.

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