March 13, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7381

Russia's Presidential Elections In Focus – On The Putin Camp's Election Day Preparations

March 13, 2018
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 7381

The Russian independent media outlet describes how Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing for Election Day.[1] The article points out that Putin's main goal is to raise voter turnout, since the Russian President is looking for legitimacy through "popular fiat".[2]

However, according to, since it is clear that Putin is going to win, the main question of this election is what will happen in the 2024 presidential elections. The Russian Constitution bars a president from serving more than four terms in office, therefore Putin won't be able to run again. "Once the limits of the Constitution have been exhausted, what next?" wonders the editorial.

Below are excerpts from the article published in the media outlet, interspersed with videos highlighting some of the points made in the article:[3]

Putin Has Been Conspicuously Absent From The Presidential Race

"There are less than two weeks left before Vladimir Putin becomes president of the Russian Federation for the fourth time. The stakes are high for a Putin victory among the country's elite who rely on the Kremlin's cover to secure their investments and fill their pockets, but this year's 'independent' candidate Vladimir Putin has been conspicuously absent from the presidential race.

"The Russian Constitution forbids a president from serving more than four terms in office, and since Dmitry Medvedev's sole term as president between 2008-2012 is well-known to have been an organized switchover between the president and the prime minister, the legitimacy of a fourth Putin term is now hanging by a delicate thread. In 2008 amendments were made to the Constitution increasing presidential terms from four years up to six, a long-term plan designed to consolidate the regime's grip on power.

"Once the limits of the Constitution have been exhausted, what next? The Kremlin's political strategists long ago set their sights on a '70/70' turnout (that's 70% turnout for 70% of the vote) formula;[4] a decisive national referendum on loyalty to the incumbent president Vladimir Putin, who has now ruled for over 18 years. In other words: legitimacy through popular fiat. One of the problems with this strategy is that although Vladimir Putin's approval rating remains historically high, the country's population is still largely reluctant to go to the polls.

"The Russian Central Electoral Commission has increased its output of information campaigns this year designed to mobilize Russia's politically apathetic population to go out and vote on March 18. A series of videos about the elections has appeared online and on Russian state TV stations this year showcasing everything from how voting will help 'real men' pick up girls to a bewildering comedy sketch emphasizing what the Kremlin perceives as the psychology of the average Russian man (in this case it includes casual homophobia and sexism). Citizens have even been given the opportunity to win an iPhone for taking selfies at the polling booth.[5]

In an attempt to avert voter abstention, several videos were produced to summon people to the polls on March 18. In the video below (see link), a pregnant woman fakes contractions to get to the polling station before it closes. The taxi driver in following the woman's directions on her destination, violates every possible traffic rule thus placing everyone's life in jeopardy. But instead of reaching a hospital they get to a school that serves as a voting booth and the woman beats the voting deadline by a minute. She then informs her perplexed driver that she's only due in a month.

See the full video

A young fellow meets a girl at a club. They start to kiss, but suddenly the girl asks him if he is eighteen or over. He replies that he is fully "grown up", but then she asks if he has voted. When he admits that he did not vote, the girl simply drops him, claiming he is too immature.

See the full video

The night before the presidential elections, a man tells his wife that he does not intend to vote. He then has a series of nightmares. In the early morning hours he is rudely awakened by military enlistment officers, who inform him that he is being mobilized for military service. The man protests that he is fifty-two years old and way above the age for military service only to discover that the age limit has been raised.

Then his son asks him for four million rubles (meaning that the country is in the throes of hyperinflation) to pay for the school guard. Before recovering from that shock, he enters his kitchen and sees a stranger sitting at the table brandishing a suggestive banana. The stranger turns out to be a "foster gay" who was dumped by his partner, and, according to the new law, if he doesn’t find a new one within a week, our bedraggled hero is to become his new partner. Later, while harried by the military and his son, the man tries to hide in the bathroom, but a red alarm goes off and he discovers too late that spending time in the bathroom is now limited.

Then the man presumably wakes up scared to death only to find the "foster gay" in his bed instead of his wife. He screams and wakes up for real, and this time finds his wife asleep. He rouses her from sleep and they both hurry to vote.

See the full video

The Kremlin Has Placed High Stakes On Achieving Both Parts Of Its Desired 70/70 Result

"Active campaigning in print and TV media is permitted from February 17 for a period of just 28 days. This means that candidates are legally permitted to receive free airtime on Russian state and regional television and radio stations, as well as in the state-owned print media. Candidates are also allowed to utilize their own paid publications that must be paid for from the candidate's personal electoral fund. Nevertheless, suspicions have already been raised about Vladimir Putin's campaign fund, which mysteriously filled up to the legal limit (400 rubles) within just one week.

"TV is the primary source of information for the majority of Russians, a medium that is almost entirely dominated by a state-owned and state-run media monopoly. The 'Golos' movement has highlighted several instances of misconduct as it was noted that state TV channels appeared to be giving disproportionately positive support to one candidate above all – Vladimir Putin.

The Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos" recently published a report on how the media is covering the election campaign. According to the document, the media coverage on the elections "is not just stagnating, but it is basically dying." The report also shows the above chart, describing the range of positive  - negative  coverage of the presidential candidates on the main Federal TV channels. According to Golos, though most of the items dealt by the media are "neutral" in nature, those which are emotionally biased are clearly in favor of Vladimir Putin. The report shows that Pavel Grudinin, Communist Party candidate,  was given twice as much time on air during news coverage of elections than Putin, but 75% of the items regarding him are clearly negative with no single positive items. The remaining 25 % of items were neutral.

Media coverage on Putin (fourth from the top) was 38% neutral, 62% positive with no single negative item. Grigory Yavlinsky and Sergey Baburin were two candidates who received completely neutral coverage.

See Golos report (in Russian)

"Putin has decided — perhaps wisely — to excuse himself from participating in televised candidate debates and other traditional forms of campaigning. Instead, while the likes of Ksenia Sobchak and Vladimir Zhirinovsky resort to water fights and verbal insults on air, Putin has chosen to run his campaign straight from the presidential seat.

The first round of the Russian presidential debates, held on February 28 with the participation of all candidates with the exception of President Vladimir Putin, turned into a shouting match, with candidate Vladimir Zhirinovski, the leader of the LDPR, insulting some of his adversaries. "Take this whore away! Black dirt! Disgusting woman!" he shouted at Ksenia Sobchak, a TV anchor and former host of the House-2 reality show who was running independently for the presidency, and she, in response to his insults, doused him with a glass of water. The debate aired on Russia 1.

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6461, First Round of Presidential Debates in Russia: You Disgusting Whore!, February 28, 2018.

"The president's State of the Nation address was conspicuously delayed from December last year to just three weeks before the elections, allowing Putin to mobilize enormous state resources and prime-time TV coverage to set out his future vision for the country, a vision that included a thinly-veiled nuclear threat aimed at the U.S.[6]

"A concert involving sportsmen and various Russian pop stars was held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow where tens of thousands of people gathered in support of Putin's presidential candidacy. However, various reports have since surfaced showing that many people were coerced into attending by employers and in some cases were even paid to attend.

See Video

"Oliver Stone's much-criticized film about Vladimir Putin in which the director portrays an unrealistically gracious image of the president was also shown on a Russian state media channel. There are claims that the broadcast was a violation of state TV's obligations to impartiality, and was shown before the officially permitted start date for candidate media campaigns, as well as not being paid for from Putin's electoral fund.[7]

"While Putin enjoys exclusive access to both prime-time TV and enormous state resources, other candidates have complained that they are being shunned by broadcasters. Candidate Ksenia Sobchak said 'I want these debates to be during prime-time [as is required by law] when everyone can see us', after one presidential debate show was held at 8am, while the majority of Russians are getting ready to go to work or school. 'I also asked Channel 1 to change its format from pre-recorded to live, so it's more difficult for them to edit certain parts out.'

"In an analysis of state TV coverage of the presidential candidates, the election monitoring organization 'Golos' showed that out of 13 minutes of coverage, 5 minutes were devoted to Vladimir Putin, his achievements and his presidential program, while between 5 and 45 seconds were devoted to the remaining candidates.

"These factors indicate a concerted effort by state-run broadcasters to bolster Vladimir Putin's image ahead of election day, while at the same time belittling the other candidates in the eyes of viewers. The Electoral Commission's radical attempts to mobilize the electorate also shows that the Kremlin has placed rather high stakes on achieving both parts of its desired 70/70 result [seventy percent turnout and a seventy percent vote for Putin]

"There is no doubt, of course, that we will see a Vladimir Putin victory on March 18; his ratings remain high and the political atmosphere has long been hostile — and in many cases deadly — to the majority of political and intellectual opposition. But what effect the continued rule of the Putin regime — with its decaying regard for the law and the constitution — will have on the Russian economy and political system will become clearer over the next 6 years."


[1] is backed by former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7375, Russia's Presidential Elections In Focus – 'Moskovskii Komsomolets' Explores Why Putin's Presidential Campaign Was 'Sluggish', March 9, 2018.

See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7362, Russia This Week – The Presidential Election In Focus – March 2, 2018, March 2, 2018.

[3], March 8, 2018.

[5] See Young Russians Could Win iPhone Prizes for Voting,, January 10, 2018.

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