BY HELEN CAIN, UoY Alumna
With over 50% of the vote necessary to win outright, anybody would think an eight-candidate race for the Presidency of the Russian Federation would be a non-result after non-result. However, with the incumbent Putin polling between 67-70%, one wonders why so many other candidates decide to part with the costs and time of a Presidential campaign. With 109 million eligible voters inside Russia, and 1.8 million voters living abroad, this election has the potential to change diplomatic relations across the world. This is particularly poignant considering the increased sanctions and severing of ties from Russia that Theresa May announced during PMQ’s on Wednesday. So, with the winner all but declared, who are the other candidates and what do they stand for?
Vladimir Putin – the incumbent / Independent / Supported by the All-Russia People’s Front
With the promise of 8% economic growth per each of these next six years if elected, Putin is the clear winner of this election. His other promises, such as extending the life expectancy to 80 years old, are tough targets that have grabbed the attention of the electorate. A defender of his decision to annex Crimea, this has not hindered his popularity, with his approval rating rising to a six-year high following this military march into Ukraine. He has held the position for 14 years, and a full completion of this Presidential term would take this to over two decades. This sizeable duration in the role has not disenfranchised the voters however, as his high opinion poll ratings show.
Pavel Grudinin – Communist Party / National Patriotic Forces of Russia
A controversial man in this election, a millionaire running as the Communist Party candidate, Grudinin stated he believes Joseph Stalin was the best ruler of Russia in the last 100 years. From graduating, he worked at the Lenin State Farm, where he became the general director, and also got the blocking shareholding. Grudinin has promised to ensure food security to the country, seeking to combat the current situation where most food is being imported. He also wants to launch massive construction of high-quality affordable housing. As the probable runner-up of this election, the vote hold of the Communist Party is an interesting reflection of the proportion of the electorate who till hold onto the politics of the former nation.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky – Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.
Mostly known within the UK as the politician who suggested tackling bird migration by shooting them all down, Zhirinovsky has run in even more Presidential elections than Putin. He was a lawyer in Moscow during the Soviet period and is now known a political entertainer, frequently appearing on television chat-shows. His electoral results have bounced up and down in each election he has led his party, from a high of 9.5% in 2008 to less than 3% in 2000. Politically, Zhirinovsky seeks a return to Russian symbolism. He claims the country craves a monarchy, a new flag, and a new name; the ‘Russian Empire’. Whilst he dreams of a return to the Russian border as of 1985, his political promise in this election is that he would work with the leaders of Poland, Hungary, and Romania to divide the land of Ukraine between these four countries. No stranger to making nationalistic comments, his appeal never has been high to the electorate, and he is often dismissed as a game player in Russian politics and not as a potential holder of the office. Opinion polls suggest he is likely to come a close third behind Grudinin with other parties far behind, but that he is more favoured for President than the Communist party candidate. Thus, while his personal popularity is greater than Grudinin, the Communist Party remains more popular.
Sergei Baburin – Russian All-People’s Union
A conservative nationalist, Baburin has made strong statements regarding his opinions that Crimea should be developed into legitimate Russian territory. This is all part of his vision for a spiritual revival for the nation. A former leader of the anti-Yeltsin opposition, Baburin is running to provide a voice for those who seek more traditional values for the nation. In a bid to provide compensation for the privatisation of state property in the 90’s, Baburin proposed in a former election to give every Russian 4 million rubles. In 2018, the party wishes for centre-left economic policies, however social policies on the far-right of the political spectrum. These include promoting pan-Slavist policies, expressing nostalgia for the Soviet era, fierce populism and strong anti-Western sentiments; with the integration of all Slavic-Speaking people.
Grigory Yavlinsky – Yabloko
Known in current Russian politics as the ‘Jewish Liberal’, Yavlinsky appears to have the most Western-friendly policies. For example, he believes the annexation of Crimea should be recognised as a violation of international law, and that Russia should withdraw all forces from Syria. Yavlinsky has run twice previously and was prevented from running in 2012 despite receiving over 2 million signatures. As well as a politician, Yavlinsky is an economist who holds a Ph.D. He has strong ties to England, where he relocated his family after his son was kidnapped and attacked during a political turbulence of the Yeltsin years. However, Yevlinsky is also an outspoken critic of Trump, particularly with regards to North Korea. Domestically, he has promised to combat poverty. His 2018 campaign is heavily focused on an economy that respects human rights, in a bid to create a strong economy from the ground up.
Boris Titov – Party of Growth
A non-candidate, Titov speaks openly about not being the man for the job. Working beneath Putin, describes himself as a right-liberal, currently serving as the government’s Ombudsman for Business. Titov is a great example of a man who will create subtle changes in history. Whilst he refuses to speak out against Putin, he states criticisms of today’s economic proposals from the incumbent. He stresses the need for cultivating markets, and more private ownership and competition. He notes the needs for increased acknowledgement of crypto-currency, as well as ending the nation’s economic dependency on the oil trade. His share of the vote is reflective more of the need for economic changes, which Titov hopes will influence Putin’s decisions in his next term. Titov is hoping to proceed in his role as Ombudsman for business.
Ksenia Sobchak – Civic Initiative
Another interesting opponent of Putin, Ksenia Sobchak is the daughter of Putin’s former mentor. Her transformation from Socialite to politician appeared to occur overnight, and she is now running as the “candidate against all”. Sobchak is linked to Alexai Navalny, an opposition leader who is barred from standing. She borrows much of her rhetoric from him, stating she would step down if he had been eligible to. Navalny is currently imprisoned on charges of starting an unlawful protest. Sobchak’s main areas of political interest in this election have been her determination to hold a second election in Crimea. Whilst she believes an unconditional return of the region to Crimea is impossible, she does not believe this is Russian territory to annex. Also opposing the more nationalistic economic politics of other opponents, Sobchak believes that the economy will improve with greater privatization than has been seen under Putin and is the greatest supporter of free-market capitalism in the election.
Maxim Suraykin – Communists of Russia
A relatively new party, the Communists of Russia was founded in 2009. With a party ideology of Marxism-Leninism, Maxim Suraykin is running as the leader in the party’s first Presidential election. Known as the party wanting to bring back the death penalty, Suraykin states he is running for the party as a genuine continuation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Members of Communists of Russia now feel the Communist Party are no longer a Marxist Party. Both the party and the candidate have not received much publicity. However, their vote pull in this election will show if this ideology still holds much appeal to the electorate.