MOSCOW: Eight candidates will be on the ballot in Russia’s March 18 presidential vote, a poll that appears certain to hand President Vladimir Putin a new six-year term.
The list of candidates was finalised when the Central Election Commission formally approved Ksenia Sobchak and Maksim Suraikin on Feb 8, the last day of the registration process.
At a live-streamed meeting in Moscow, commission chief Ella Pamfilova said that eight candidates will compete for the country’s highest office.
Putin’s popularity, his control over the levers of power, and what critics say have been years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalise opponents virtually ensure that he will win a fourth term.
Opposition activists say that in past elections the Kremlin has used an array of tactics, both during campaigns and on Election Day, to manipulate the vote and achieve the results it desires.
Sobchak is a journalist and TV personality whose late father, Anatoly, was Putin’s boss and mentor for a time in the 1990s. She was nominated by the Civil Initiative party.
Suraikin is the little-known leader of the Communists of Russia Party, which is separate from the much-larger Communist Party.
The six candidates registered earlier are Putin, business ombudsman Boris Titov of the Party of Growth, nationalist Sergei Baburin of the Russian All-People Union Party, liberal Grigory Yavlinsky of the Yabloko party, flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky – the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia – and Communist Party nominee Pavel Grudinin.
Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, a vocal critic of Putin, has been barred from running because of a criminal conviction that he contends was the result of fabricated evidence. He has called on Russians to boycott the vote, which he has condemned as Putin’s “reappointment.”
Russia’s constitution bars presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms, meaning that Putin would not be eligible to seek a new term in 2024.
A longtime KGB officer in the Soviet era, Putin served two four-year terms after President Boris Yeltsin stepped down on the last day of 1999 and put him in charge as acting president.
After steering Dmitry Medvedev into the presidency in 2008 and becoming prime minister – a move that enabled him to retain power without violating the constitutional limit of two straight terms – Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012.