Voting Begins in 'Sham' Russian Election

Landslide Putin victory is not in doubt
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2024 7:30 AM CDT
With Putin's Victory Not in Doubt, Russia Votes
A woman casts a ballot at a polling station during a presidential election in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, Russia, Friday, March 15, 2024.   (AP Photo)

Three days of voting in Russia's presidential election began Friday, and the only unknown about the outcome is how big Vladimir Putin's victory will be. The Russian leader's main political opponents are banned from running, jailed, exiled, or dead, and the only other candidates on the ballot are "low-profile politicians from token opposition parties that toe the Kremlin's line," the AP reports. "Would like to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his landslide victory in the elections starting today," European Council President Charles Michel said in a post on X. "No opposition. No freedom. No choice."

  • Turnout. The outcome isn't in doubt, but authorities have been pushing hard to achieve high turnout and have introduced electronic voting for the first time, the BBC reports. Turnout was 68% in 2018, when Putin was elected to his current six-year term, though there were allegations of ballot-stuffing. In 2012, turnout was 107% in a precinct Putin won 1,482 to 1. According to leaked documents, regional governors have been ordered to secure 75% turnout and 80% support for Putin, NPR reports.
  • No international oversight. The elections are taking place without the presence of international observer missions. Russia's main election monitoring group, Golos, has been declared a "foreign agent" and its co-founder is in jail. "The elections in Russia as a whole are a sham. The Kremlin controls who's on the ballot. The Kremlin controls how they can campaign. To say nothing of being able to control every aspect of the voting and the vote-counting process," says Sam Greene, director for Democratic Resilience at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington.

  • This could put Putin in power for longer than Stalin. Putin was appointed prime minister in 1999 and has been president since 2000, apart from a four-year period when, due to term limits, he served as prime minister while close ally Dmitry Medvedev was president. If he serves a new six-year term to completion, he will become the "longest-serving Russian leader since Empress Catherine the Great in the 1700s," the New York Times reports. Putin changed the country's constitution in 2021 to allow himself two more terms.
  • "It's like in communist times." While Putin has high approval ratings, especially among older Russians, analysts say the vote will be far from free and fair. In occupied territories in Ukraine, the military is overseeing voting. Veteran Russian election analyst Roman Udot tells NPR that votes will be rigged to deliver the numbers Putin wants. "It's like in communist times. It's just make-believe," he says.
  • A "mandate" for the Ukraine war. The Kremlin will use the victory to claim a mandate for the war in Ukraine, "enshrining Putin's bloodiest gamble as the country's finest moment," Andrew Roth and Pjotr Sauer write at the Guardian. "Now convinced that he can outlast the west, Putin is seeking to wed Russia's future, including an elite and a society that appear resigned to his lifelong rule, to the fate of his long war," they write.

  • War propaganda. Opposition to the war has been silenced and the Kremlin has spent at least $690 million on propaganda to build support for what it calls the "special military operation" in Ukraine, the New York Times reports. Analysts say many Russians are anxious about the war—but some of the worries have helped boost Putin, who says he is the only person who can win it. "There are fears about what will happen if we don't win: We will be humiliated, everyone will be prosecuted, we will have to pay huge reparations—and basically put under foreign control," says Greg Yudin, a Russian sociologist at Princeton University.
  • The opposition's protest plan. Putin opponents have urged voters to show up at the polls at noon on Sunday, the last day of voting, the AP reports. The plan was endorsed by opposition politician Alexei Navalny before his death in a Siberian penal colony last month. "We need to use election day to show that we exist and there are many of us, we are actual, living, real people and we are against Putin," his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, said. "What to do next is up to you. You can vote for any candidate except Putin. You could ruin your ballot."
(More Russian elections stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.