Advertisement

Putin to run as ‘independent candidate’ in Russia’s presidential election – here’s what it means

Vladimir Putin has decided he will run as an independent candidate in next year’s heavily stage-managed presidential election, a faux-democratic process that will see him maintain his grip as Russia’s leader.

Mr Putin has been at the centre of power in the Kremlin – either as president or prime minister – for more than two decades, and throughout that time has stood for his ruling United Russia (UR) party.

The 71-year-old politician has twice had the constitution amended so he could theoretically stay in power until he’s in his mid-80s.

Mr Putin’s decision to run as an “independent” is likely to be an effort to present himself as a unifying force at a time when his full-scale invasion of Ukraine has isolated Russia from the world and put unprecedented strain on the country’s economy.

“I will not hide the fact that at different times I had different thoughts. Now you are right this is a time [when] the decision needs to be made. I will run for the post of president of the Russian Federation,” Mr Putin said last week.

Sergei Mironov, a senior Putin ally and leader of the A Just Russia party which supports him, confirmed Putin would run as an independent candidate and that signatures would need to be gathered for this.

More than 700 politicians and figures from across the sporting and cultural community met on Saturday where they endorsed Mr Putin’s candidacy, Russian news agencies reported.

United Russia will continue to back the president, said Andrei Turchak, a senior party official. “More than 3.5 million party members and supporters will actively take part in the election campaign,” he said.

Russia’s decision to stage an election comes in contrast to Volodymyr Zelensky, who has delayed Ukraine’s vote saying it is “not the right time” to hold a democratic process while the country is at war.

The result of March’s election is seen as a formality, with Putin having total control of the country’s state and media and having criminalised mainstream public dissent. His most high profile critic and opponent, Alexei Navalny, is currently missing after a prison transfer, and has been banned from participating in polls.

Igor Girkin, an ultranationalist who led Russian separatist militias in eastern Ukraine prior to the full-scale invasion last year, and who had announced his intention to run for the presidency prior to his arrest this year, also had his detention extended by six months as he awaits trial on extremism charges. The Putin critic is unlikely to be listed on the ballot.

In a daring move, allies of Mr Navalny in the Anti-Corruption Foundation on Thursday placed anti-Putin billboards disguised as New Year’s greetings that said “Russia” and “Happy New Year” in several major cities. But a large QR code on the signs led to a website titled “Russia without Putin”.

Putin is already the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin. He first became acting president on New Year’s Eve in 1999 when Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned. He was elected to his first term in March 2000, and while he had a brief stint as prime minister from 2008 to 2012, he maintained his grip on the country while his close aide Dmitry Medvedev held the presidency.