News Analysis |
Presidential elections in Russia are due to begin. The first round of presidential elections will begin this Sunday on the 18th of March.
18 Years of reign in Russia by Putin
There are a total of 8 candidates for the presidency, including the incumbent president Vladimir Putin. Putin is seeking his second consecutive term as president and his fourth in total. When he was not the president, Putin served as the Prime Minister of Russia from 2008 till 2012. Dmitry Medvedev is currently the Prime Minister. Interestingly, Medvedev was President when Putin was Prime Minister. However, the reins of power were still believed to be in Putin’s hands, regardless of whether he was Prime Minister or President.
The electoral system in Russia is unique in that it has both a President as well as a Prime Minister. By March 2018, Putin will have spent over 18 years serving either as President or Prime Minister of Russia. As per the World Bank, the total population of Russia is about 144 million. Since, the voting age in Russia is 18, the number of eligible voters in the 2012 elections was a little was over 100 million and over 71 million voted. Vladimir Putin got 45 million of these votes, securing an absolute majority.
In Syria, Putin’s has deftly outsmarted the US and its allies and managed to single-handedly save the Syrian regime from being overthrown from Western-backed rebels. Russia also played an active diplomatic role in the Iran-Nuclear Deal.
If no candidate is able to do that, a second round of elections is held between the two candidates with the most votes. Russia has a state ‘Duma’ or parliament as well, with 450 members. However, the state Duma is not popular and is weak vis-à-vis the presidency. About 37% of Russians believe Russia can do without the Duma. In addition to that, the Prime Minister of Russia, who is said to be the Chairman of the Government, is also nominated by the President.
The Presidential office is where the real executive power rests. Elections in Russia used to be held once in every four years. However, in 2008, the term-limit for President was extended to 6 years, and for Duma, by 5 years. The presidential candidates vary in their positions, background and ideologies. Maxim Suraykin, from the Communists of Russia Party, argues for a return of something akin to the USSR and a much tougher stance towards the EU. Ksenia Sobchack, a reality TV star and the only woman in the race, seems to think that ‘Russia is a European country.’
Read more: Russia and Pakistan: A Balancing Act?
She argues for a rapprochement in EU-Russia relations, citing common interests in economic growth and counter-terrorism. Boris Titov, a businessman, emphasizes economic development above all else. And finally, Vladimir Putin stands for security, stability and a relation with the European Union that is not politicized by US interference.
The President of Russia enjoys high approval ratings. According to the independent non-governmental research organization Levada Center, 82% of Russians approve of Vladimir Putin while only 17% disapprove. It’s not only organizations based in Russia that depict high approval ratings for Putin. The US-based Pew Research Center also shows that 87% of Russians have a lot of confidence in Vladimir Putin’s leadership. This is why he is expected to win the upcoming Russian elections and there are good reasons for this much popularity.
There was some concern that Georgia was getting too close to the EU and NATO. In a move that was widely criticized by the West, Putin sent troops to Georgia in 2008 to maintain a buffer zone on Russia’s western border.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, as a nation of people, felt disgraced. As the USSR disintegrated, the average Russian feared the break-up of the motherland itself. Popular American podcaster and radio-show host Dan Carlin described the post-cold war attitude of the West towards Russia in these words, “Russia was treated like a drunken homeless person that people ignored or looked down upon.”
Furthermore-although scholars have debated this but the questions is now settled-newly declassified documents show that Russia was promised that NATO would not move ‘one inch eastward.’ These words were said by the then American Secretary of State James Baker to the Russian premier Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9th, 1990. In addition to that, President George H.W. Bush of America also assured Gorbachev that the US would not take advantage of revolutions in Eastern Europe to harm Soviet interests.
Read more: Putin: Russia’s post-Soviet Tsar
However, not only did NATO expand, it expanded quite rapidly throughout the 1990s. Eventually, NATO reached the borders of Russia, with nukes installed less than 200 miles away from Moscow. In addition to that, sorties were flown over former soviet territory, sometimes carrying nuclear weapons. From the perspective of Moscow, these were meant to intimidate Russians when the nation was at its weakest.
The US-based Pew Research Center also shows that 87% of Russians have a lot of confidence in Vladimir Putin’s leadership. This is why he is expected to win the upcoming Russian elections and there are good reasons for this much popularity.
In such drastic circumstances, people look for a leader who would grant some sense of direction to the country and the Russian people found one in Vladimir Putin. Putin prevented the break-up of Russia by launching an expansive military operation in Chechnya. He managed to nationalize some oilfields previously under the control of billionaire oligarchs and when oil price rose in the mid-2000s, the Russian economy boomed.
Read more: Putin and Russian Missile Defense: Advice from US Military Think Tank
Both Napolean and Hitler invaded and ravaged Russia from its East. Today, NATO is seen as a reincarnation of Moscow’s old western foe. There was some concern that Georgia was getting too close to the EU and NATO. In a move that was widely criticized by the West, Putin sent troops to Georgia in 2008 to maintain a buffer zone on Russia’s western border.
Putin also successfully annexed Crimea in 2012, gaining access to a warm water port for the country. In Syria, Putin’s has deftly outsmarted the US and its allies and managed to single-handedly save the Syrian regime from being overthrown from Western-backed rebels. Russia also played an active diplomatic role in the Iran-Nuclear Deal. In the view of many Western analysts, ‘Russia is back!’ and the people of Russia have Vladimir Putin to thank for it.