In Russia, lawmakers passed a decree to set the country’s 2024 presidential election for March 17, thus bringing Vladimir Putin closer to a potential fifth term in office. Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the Federation Council, called the decision the start of the election campaign.This move was made despite Putin not announcing his intention to run again, even though he is widely expected to do so. Under constitutional changes he initiated, Putin could seek two more six-year terms after his current one expires next year, potentially allowing him to remain in power until 2036.
Despite the potential for Putin to remain in power, prominent critics who could challenge him are either in jail or abroad, and most independent media have been banned. Despite the war in Ukraine and failed rebellions against him, Putin’s popularity remains high.
The names of anyone who might run against Putin are unclear, and imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny urged his followers to vote for anyone but Putin. The opposition has already placed billboards in parts of Russia, urging opposition to Putin, but not everyone has been able to see them.
Two individuals have announced plans to run in opposition, but they face very difficult hurdles to even being considered as candidates, as they do not belong to a major party. In addition, Putin himself may opt to run as an independent.
The Central Election Commission is planning to incorporate online voting along with traditional paper ballots in about 30 regions in the election, which has been criticized by election monitors. The conditions have limited independent monitoring, to the point where only registered candidates, or state-recognized bodies, can assign observers to polling stations. It is uncertain the level of transparency with online voting.
An election expert also sees the likely election as more of a ritual for Putin and his team, to measure regional loyalties and the effectiveness of the political system. Although election day is scheduled, opposition to Putin remains, despite the challenges they face.