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Putin’s election as an aspiration for legitimisation, which impacts political agenda

Putin’s election as an aspiration for legitimisation, which impacts political agenda

The Russian presidential election remains a significant event in the country’s political landscape. It serves as a tool to demonstrate the legitimacy of Putin’s power and the public approval of the Kremlin’s policies. Moreover, the election is instrumental in dissemination the regime’s propaganda. In preparation for the 2024 presidential election, the regime sought to ensure that the support for the Russian leader had not diminished since the last election, and that at least half of the eligible population would vote for Putin.

The manipulation of the electoral process has been perfected under the Putin rule. Election authorities, with the Kremlin’s approval, have marginalised the non-systemic opposition, denied them access to the election enforced the dominance of pro-regime candidates in the media, pressured state officials, employees ofstate-owned companies or companies owned by loyal oligarchs, facilitated non-transparent Internet voting and gerrymandering. The Russian Presidential Administration, together with other institutions, imitate democratic procedures and seek to demonstrate that the election is transparent and its results are legitimate. However, if the desired election results cannot be achieved through political technologies and procedural manipulations, repression of society and control of the media, both of which have intensified over several years, provide the regime with additional opportunities to falsify the results as it sees fit.

One of the Kremlin’s priorities has been to ensure that Putin’s approval rating among the population of the newly occupied territories of Ukraine is higher than Russia’s average. These election results would be used by the regime to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and legitimise the annexation of the Ukrainian territories.

Putin’s election campaign has been based on ideology, it emphasises Russia’s uniqueness, sovereignty, the need to preserve traditional values and an inevitable confrontation with the West. Since the non-systemic opposition has been neutralised, the Kremlin, after the failed Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny, pays more attention to the so-called ultra-patriots by preventing them from criticising the Kremlin’s regime. Therefore, war propaganda has been an essential element of the election campaign, as the Kremlin wants to appear more patriotic than the ultra-patriots.

The regime has been also determined to show that the war has little impact on people’s daily lives. In the run-up to the the election, the Kremlin has avoided any unpopular decisions that could have increased social discontent (e.g. announcing a second wave of mobilisation or cutting social spending). With a new mandate, the Kremlin is more likely to take unpopular decisions in the post-election period to address problems related to the situation on the frontline or the country’s economy.

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