Russian President Vladimir Putin officially announced he will run for reelection in March of 2018. The announcement that was highly expected means that the current incumbent will be the front runner to get a new 6-year term, until 2024.
“Yes, I will run as a candidate for the Russian presidency. Our country is its people, people like you. It’s workers, scientists, engineers, designers, teachers and doctors. With an active involvement of its people, Russia can deal with any, even the most complex challenges it faces,” the Russian President said, according to Russia Today.
Just hours after he was much more coy about his political plans with journalists. Earlier in the day, Putin attended the Russian Volunteer 2017 award ceremony in Moscow, where he asked the audience whether they would support his decision to run. The answer was seemingly a unanimous “Yes.”
“When I make the decision, I will certainly keep in mind our conversation today and your reaction,” Putin said.
Putin in front
At the peak of his power at home and abroad, Putin is expected to win a landslide in the contest, due on March 18, with a recent poll showing he’d get 67 percent of the vote. He has been in power since 2000, either as president or Prime Minister. If he wins the March election he will be eligible to serve until 2024.
Russian TV journalist Ksenia Sobchak has already said she will stand in the election. She is also a daughter of Putin’s political mentor Alexei Sobchak (who also helped the rise of current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev).
Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been formally barred from standing because he was found guilty of embezzlement. He organized protests in many cities across the country several months ago, and called for “active boycott” of the vote if he is not allowed to run.
Other important opposition figures expected to run are Gennady Zyuganov from the Communist Party and the outspoken Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. All of them don’t have nearly enough support to seriously challenge the incumbent President on election day.
Polls to open on the anniversary of Crimea Annexation
The upcoming election on March 18 will be the fourth in Putin’s political career. He held the office of president for two terms from 2000 to 2008, and served as prime minister from 2008 to 2012. Putin then won a third term as president in 2012.
The chosen date is significant in Russia’s recent history, as it signifies the day when the Crimean peninsula announced annexation to the Russian Federation.
While few doubted that the current head of state would run, a delay in announcing his bid was seen as part of the Kremlin’s political maneuvering.
“It was necessary to ensure electoral mobilization,” Dmitry Orlov, a political consultant close to the Kremlin, said in televised remarks.
The Russian Government has been worried about growing voter apathy, and the uncertainty about Putin’s plans seemed intended to encourage public interest in the race.