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PREVIEW Russia's political supremo Putin set for six more years By Peter Spinella, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
With no serious rival in sight, a dominant Vladimir Putin is set to maintain his grip on the Kremlin in this weekend‘s election.

Moscow (dpa) - Vladimir Putin appears certain to win his fourth term as Russia‘s president this weekend despite avoiding the usual rough-and-tumble of an election campaign.

He announced only three months ago that he would run, and for his biggest campaign rally in Moscow a couple weeks ago, it was uncertain whether he would even show up.

Putin, running as an independent candidate, has been in power in Russia as president or prime minister since 1999. He does not need to campaign like a normal politician or engage in debates with challengers, analysts said.

"For Putin, the election is not an act of political competition with other candidates. It is a procedure of receiving another public confirmation of his legitimacy as Russia‘s leader," said political expert Nabi Abdullaev.

"Actively campaigning, engaging with other candidates, would put him on the same level in the eyes of the Russian public, while he wants to preserve his status of a political supremo whose authority and legitimacy are way above whatever any other politician in Russia would attain," said Abdullaev, associate director for Russia at the global consultancy Control Risks Group.

In a nationwide survey last year by Russia‘s largest independent pollster, Levada Centre, nearly three-quarters of respondents - 73 per cent - gave a positive assessment of Putin‘s work as president.

On Monday, the state‘s largest pollster, the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, published the results of a nationwide survey showing that 69 per cent of respondents would vote for Putin in the upcoming election. A distant second was the Communist candidate, Pavel Grudinin, with 7 per cent.

Another challenger who has gained countrywide recognition as the leader of a protest movement, Alexei Navalny, has been prohibited from running because of a financial crimes conviction that he has attested was trumped up.

Navalny has called for a boycott of Sunday‘s election, which he hopes will be undermined by low voter turnout.

"Everyone realizes that the elections are Putin‘s ‘vote of confidence,‘" said Pavel Sharikov, a political expert at the state-chartered Russian Academy of Sciences. "Low turnout could hardly undermine the outcome of the elections, but it may raise certain questions about his legitimacy."

Navalny‘s boycott is "more of a symbolic, deliberate act of protest for a rather small faction of opposition-minded voters, which most political analysts put around 1-2 per cent," Abdullaev said.

Putin‘s next term as president, until the year 2024, could be his last, as the Russian constitution allows only two terms in a row.

But that hasn‘t stopped him before. Putin could go back to being prime minister for a term - as he did in 2008 - and then seek the presidency again afterwards. If he does that again, he will be 77 when retrying for the presidency.

Putin would only leave power if he has a successor whom he could trust with his own safety, as well as that of his close associates, Abdullaev said, adding that the successor would also have to share Putin‘s geopolitical vision of Russia as a global power.

"It is difficult to predict now whether such a person will be found by Putin, who is famous for his secretiveness and skilful balancing of other political players," Abdullaev said.

"Our conservative, longer-term analysis at this moment is that Putin will most likely continue to influence the political agenda after 2024."


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