Vladimir Putin will most likely stand for re-election in March 2024. True, Putin hasn’t yet formally declared
his candidacy. But that fits a pattern seen in previous
elections, with a clear reluctance to commit publicly to running.
As is well known, the 2020 constitutional changes gave Putin the formal veneer of authority to run again in 2024 and 2030. These changes – denounced
by some as an “unlawful anti-constitutional coup” – could, of course, be part of some plot to keep us all guessing, with Putin not actually planning to stay on in the Kremlin. But the simplest explanation is that he will run in 2024 – and win.
But win by how much? Before the 2018 election, the Presidential Administration settled on the “‘70/70’ formula
” – 70 percent support on 70 percent turnout. In a predictable development, the Administration is reportedly now aiming for more than 80 percent support in 2024 – and, in a statement that has caused many eyebrows to be raised, Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, predicted that the president would secure more than 90 percent of the vote, adding
that “[o]ur presidential election is not really democracy, it is costly bureaucracy”.
How will the Kremlin ensure such a high level of support? According to the Levada Center, Putin’s approval
rating stood at 82 percent in July. But the uncertainties
about polling in an authoritarian regime, especially one during a time of war, might prevent those around Putin from being complacent.The “menu of manipulation”
Elections in Russia are often rightly dismissed as being undemocratic
– that is, of not giving Russian citizens a meaningful way to choose who ends up in positions of elected office in free and fair conditions.
Media coverage pointing out the non-democratic nature of elections in Russia often focuses on ballot stuffing
as the key way by which the electoral playing field is unlevelled (or, rather, completely dug up). And the impact of such fraud is far from insignificant: analysis
of the September 2021 State Duma elections suggests that United Russia’s actual level of support was likely just over 30 percent, in contrast to an official result of 50 percent.
But there are, of course, other items from the “menu of manipulation
” beyond ballot stuffing that are used by the authorities to get the results
they want. These include forms of coercion, including repressing
opposition figures and putting pressure in the workplace
for employees to vote a certain way.