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Beyond the “parody”, Putin’s re-election “eliminates doubts about the fragility of Russian power”

Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova Agence France-Presse The Russian president spoke to the media from his campaign office in Moscow after the results were announced.

Marc-Antoine Franco Rey

March 18, 2024 Analysis

  • Europe

Without real opposition and at the end of a vote denounced as a political masquerade, the Russian president in power for almost a quarter of a century, Vladimir Putin, was reappointed on Sunday for at least another six years, claiming a large score and a high participation. Results which “testify to the confidence of the country's citizens”, declared the master of the Kremlin, and which will allow him to stay the course, in particular his war in Ukraine, experts analyze.

“With 87% [of the votes], it seems to me to be the highest score ever obtained [by Putin], said to Devoir Yann Breault, assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Royal Military College of Saint-Jean. Whether it's true or not, let's say that the image that will be exploited by those in power will be the coronation [of the president]. »

“This election eliminates the doubts that persisted, especially in the West, about the supposed fragility of Russian power which would be on the verge of collapse because there would be internal divisions,” he continues. 60~/p>

Mr. Putin, aged 71, also thanked those who helped create the conditions for “internal political consolidation”. “It doesn’t matter who wants to intimidate us or how much, it doesn’t matter who wants to crush our will or how much. No one has ever managed to do something like this in history. It didn't work today and won't work in the future. »

Around the world, this election was described as neither “free” nor “fair”, “not legal”. In kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Vladimir Putin as a man “drunk with power” who wants to “rule forever.”

“A Plebiscite on the Subject of War”

The names of three other candidates appeared on the ballots, all in line with the Kremlin, whether on the special operation in Ukraine or the repression that culminated in death of opponent Alexeï Navalny in a prison in the Arctic in mid-February.

The turnout rate (74%, according to the Election Commission) and the number of canceled or rejected ballots could represent key data for Moscow regarding citizen support, especially in the context of the war with Ukraine.

“It’s a plebiscite on the subject of war,” summarizes Mr. Roche. If we see, for example, with the results of the election, that there is a fairly high level of indirect discontent manifesting itself, the regime risks being a little more cautious with regard to the decision it is going to take. for mobilization”, analyzes the professor.

For this presidential election, the widow of the former detractor n°1, Yulia Navalnaïa, had called on her supporters to show up in numbers by all going to vote at the same time, at noon on Sunday, against the master of Kremlin. In the evening, Alexei Navalny’s team declared that the score obtained by Mr. Putin had “no connection with reality”. Later, the re-elected president assured that the death of Alexei Navalny was a “sad event”.

The election week was also marked by deadly airstrikes and attempted ground incursions from Ukraine into Russian territory, responses to Russia's daily bombings and assaults against its neighbor for more than two years.

With the rumor of a general offensive planned for this summer, according to Michel Roche, Vladimir Putin needs to know if the Russian people are still behind him.

“I would not be surprised if, following this election, we saw an acceleration of militarization,” says Yann Breault. We are waiting until we have passed the election stage before perhaps announcing new measures, which will force the population to make additional sacrifices. »

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The opposition “in very bad shape”

Inside Russia, according to Michel Roche, this “triumph” gives the Kremlin the opportunity to increase repression. But “the more ferocious a regime is, the more it actually demonstrates the great fear it feels towards the people,” the professor nonetheless argues.

Beyond the “parody”, Putin’s re-election “eliminates doubts about the fragility of Russian power”

Photo: Monika Skolimowska Associated Press Yulia Navalnaïa, widow of opponent Alexeï Navalny, Sunday

“Things are not going very well for those who were hoping for a mobilization of popular opposition to ultimately overturn the regime in place,” reports Yann Breault. We have the impression that those in power have a tight leash on all those who could represent a threat. »

If there is opposition in the private sphere, the professor notes the absence of mass repression. “We have succeeded in establishing a climate of fear which is still quite dissuasive for opposition voices. »

The opposition is “in very bad shape”, he emphasizes.

Since the start of the military offensive in Ukraine, Russia has withdrawn into itself at a “very, very worrying” speed, says Mr. Breault. “We wonder how many years away we are from a North Korean scenario. »

With Agence France-Presse

What was this election for ?

“This election goes further than being a simple electoral parody,” said the professor of the Devoir UQAC Michel Roche. All governments take censuses, he recalls, in order to take the pulse of public opinion and thus make the necessary decisions and plan their actions.

“In this case, the elections serve to test the popularity of the president,” explains Mr. Roche. Because no matter how much we do polls, Putin still needs to know to what extent there is opposition. »

Taking place over three days rather than one, the presidential election was strategically designed to be more difficult to monitor. How, then, can we trust the results ? “It’s not that it’s really representative,” Mr. Roche explains. Above all, it gives a clue. »

“We all wonder to what extent this election [is] representative or will give a realistic sounding of the state of opinion and the support of the population”, he also wonders Yann Breault, from the Royal Military College of Saint-Jean.

“Does this mean the exercise is completely fraudulent ? If that were the case and if the Russians thought so, there might not be so many of them participating », he maintains.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116