Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov, tycoon and independent candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, Nationalist Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and A Just Russia party leader Sergey Mironov will battle for the country’s presidency on Sunday. Reuters
Having extended the presidential term of office from four to six years, Putin would remain in charge until 2018 – or 2024, if he won a second term. By then, Putin would have chalked up 24 years in power out of the 33 years since the collapse of Communism thanks to his previous terms as president and prime minister.
Could Vladimir Putin be in power until 2024? 10 key questions about Russia’s elections
More than 100 million Russians will go to the polls on Sunday to elect a president who will be in office for the next six years. Msnbc.com’s Alastair Jamieson examines the potential outcomes — and what’s at stake.
What do the polls suggest will happen?
Most polls indicate it will be an outright victory for Vladimir Putin, the current prime minister and former president who has made a deal with his ally Dmitry Medvedev, the former prime minister and current president. Despite initial public outrage over their job swap, Putin is consistently polling at around 50 per cent – well ahead of the fragmented opposition.
And even if voters do not endorse Putin, his victory is likely to be assured with the help of regional officials loyal to his United Russia party. Having extended the presidential term of office from four to six years, Putin would remain in charge until 2018 – or 2024, if he won a second term. By then, Putin would have chalked up 24 years in power out of the 33 years since the collapse of Communism thanks to his previous terms as president and prime minister.
If the outcome is such a certainty, why should the U.S. and other Western countries care?
Experts agree the U.S. will find Russia harder to deal with on Putin’s return. On Wednesday, British think tank Chatham House warned that “Russia’s stability is at increased risk” due to Putin’s determination to stay in power. “The overriding objective of Vladimir Putin and his team is to preserve the narrow and personalized ruling system that they have built over the past 12 years,” it said in a report. “Real change, necessarily involving accountability and devolution of power, would disrupt the system. But without real change, Russia cannot develop as effectively as it could, and the Putin system is vulnerable to shock.”
Opposition leaders believe Russia at a crossroads in this election, according to NBC News correspondent Jim Maceda.
“The choice is stark: six, perhaps 12, more years of an authoritative regime that is belligerent to critics … and which sees the U.S. and its allies as Cold War rivals — or a new, more democratic Russia that respects its neighbors and no longer snubs the West,” he said.
“The feeling is that a President Putin will instinctively shrink from, rather than encourage, co-operation with the West on a range of issues including Iran and Syria, so there’s a lot at stake for the U.S. in this election,” added Maceda, who has reported on the country since the days of the Soviet Union.
Although Putin enjoys strong domestic popularity, especially in rural Russia, dissatisfaction with his seemingly invincible regime has resulted in unprecedented public protests, with thousands joining recent marches in central Moscow that would have been unthinkable only a few months ago.