Important points

  • On Thursday, Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, announced the Russian presidential election.
  • A day later, Vladimir Putin announced that he would run again for a fifth term in office.
  • Opinion polls show Putin has an approval rating of 80 percent, but sociologists warn the results should not be trusted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t even look into the television camera when he announced that he wanted to stay in the Kremlin for at least six more years as head of the world’s largest nuclear power. He spoke after election officials set March 15-17, 2024 as the date for the presidential election.

“I won’t hide that I had different thoughts at different times, but now it’s time to make a decision. I will run for president,” Putin said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who in recent weeks has said he strongly hoped Putin would run, said the announcement was spontaneous and denied that the scene had been prepared in advance. “He was asked a question and he answered it. Well, “It’s completely spontaneous,” Peskov said. “He was responding to the appeals of heroic people, so yes, it was a response to the appeals of people.”

Putin, who was given the presidency by Boris Yeltsin on the last day of 1999, has been president longer than any other Russian ruler since Joseph Stalin, even surpassing Leonid Brezhnev’s 1964-1982 term.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Heroes of Russia in the Kremlin that he would run for the post of head of state in the upcoming elections. Source: AAP / Mikhael Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/EPA

‘Surprise surprise’

Whether prepared or not, it seems that this announcement did not surprise Russian citizens, whose reactions on social media ranged from jokes about the “unexpectedness” of Putin’s decision to outright despair.

Russian independent media Meduza, headquartered in Latvia, asked its followers on X (formerly Twitter) to express their feelings about the announcement.

“Now I feel a burning desire to take care of myself as best I can and witness the end of all his terms with my own eyes,” one user wrote. “I don’t feel anything.” The message is similar to saying, “Usually winter comes after.” “Autumn,” said another. “If being president for seven years can drive you crazy, then 24 years can drive everyone else crazy,” was one comment,” was another.

“Complete despair. I can’t even joke about it.”

It seems that Putin’s announcement did not surprise Russian citizens. Source: AAP / Ivan Sekretarev/AP

The comments supporting Putin’s intentions appeared to have a more serious tone: “Putin is human and makes mistakes. But what matters is the intentions and the fact that there are far fewer mistakes than right decisions,” wrote one user.

“Vladimir Putin is an example of the highest moral standards, deep integrity, selfless altruism and heroic asceticism. People like him are born every thousand years, and we are incredibly lucky to live in the same time as him!”

How much support does Putin’s policy receive?

Official Russian opinion polls show that Putin has an approval rating of 80 percent – higher than before the war in Ukraine. Sociologists point out that those who take surveys in contemporary Russia often perceive them as a form of communication with the authorities and adjust their answers accordingly.

In an interview with Meduza, Professor Grigori Yudin of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences said: “Russia is characterized by very strong depoliticization – people are reluctant to take part in elections or opinion polls. The majority lack interest in politics and do not have clear opinions on many issues.”

Since the early 2000s, there have been three major polling centers in Russia. Two of them receive major contracts from government agencies, which allows the state to have a significant influence on the topics of their research and decide on the publication of the results.

The third center, the Levada Center, is financially independent of the central government, and in September the Russian Justice Ministry declared Levada a foreign agent, further restricting its activities.

Alexei Navalny comments on the election

Alexei Navalny, considered Putin’s main opponent, a few days ago called on Russians to take part in the presidential elections and vote against Putin because of allegations of fraud and other allegations that he said were fabricated to silence him bring to. “We urge everyone: don’t be afraid. Our fear robs us of our land and our future. Year after year, for 24 years now. Those who are afraid to put up a poster in their apartment block for the sake of freedom share a link. “While meeting a friend or making a few phone calls, we should think about why they need freedom in the first place,” his team posted the message on Navalny’s Telegram channel. Navalny’s supporters placed campaign banners in Russian cities that resembled New Year’s greetings but with a QR code. The banners were redirected to a website that not only called for people to vote against Putin, but also actively persuaded others to do the same to do.

The authorities quickly realized it; Most of the banners have been removed and the website has been blocked.

Ukraine’s reaction to Putin’s plans

Kiev residents said they were not surprised by Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he would run for another term as president, but were concerned that his possible re-election would not mean a quick end to the war. “I think he will rule until he dies. That’s what he is.” “A kind of animal that loves power. He will keep his seat until he dies. Nobody will be able to kick him out. Here’s what I think,” Yurii, a 69-year-old Jijiw resident, told Reuters. “It will have.” Negative consequences. I think that the war will not be over anytime soon as long as he remains in office and if he is re-elected. However, I have great confidence in the Ukrainian armed forces. But right now it’s like, “This is it,” Victoria, a 47-year-old Kherson resident, commented to Reuters. Oksana, a 50-year-old displaced woman from Mariupol, said: “I think if people in Russia vote for Putin, it probably doesn’t mean anything good.”

Additional reporting from Reuters and AAP.

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