Five candidates have already announced their intention to participate in the presidential elections in Russia, which will be held in March 2024. One of them is currently in prison.
The next presidential elections in Russia are due to be held on March 17, 2024. The final decision on this is due to be taken by the Federation Council this month. This is expected to happen between December 8 and 18.
Meanwhile, former "Minister of Defense" of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DPR) Igor Strelkov (Girkin), journalist from Rzhev and mother of three Ekaterina Duntsova, as well as Boris Nadezhin from the Dolgoprudny City Council in the Moscow region and former deputy of the State Duma announced their desire to run. In addition, Sergei Lipatov, a courier by profession, as well as the head of the National Pension Association and former deputy chairman of the capital branch of the Yabloko party, Anatoly Rabinovich, also announced their presidential ambitions.
The presidential campaign is effectively a foregone conclusion, but the authorities may allow a number of opposition candidates to increase voter turnout and legitimacy in these elections. It is not even excluded that some of the candidates admitted to the race are oppositional or have pacifist views - as long as the situation is controlled entirely by the Kremlin.
Candidate of the "Left and Patriotic Forces"
The most unpredictable among them so far seems to be Igor Strelkov (Girkin), observers believe. The retired FSB colonel and former "defense minister" of the Donetsk separatists has been in custody since July 2023 on charges of summoning extremist activity (according to 280 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). The maximum penalty he can receive on this charge is five years' imprisonment. However, all materials in the case are classified.
Strelkov was declared internationally wanted at the request of The Hague District Court after he was sentenced to life in prison for the crash of a Malaysian Boeing passenger plane in July 2014. Ukraine accuses him of war crimes.
Strelkov's intention to run for the presidential election was announced last month by the coordinator of the Left Front party, Sergei Udaltsov, who presented him as a joint candidate of the country's "left and patriotic forces." Strelkov himself then suggested that his candidacy would be blocked at the stage of collecting signatures.
The Kremlin is unlikely to risk Girkin
Strelkov has not yet presented his election program, but assured that his nomination can unite "all true patriotic forces in Russian society."
The Kremlin won't risk Girkin because the emergence of such a candidate would be tantamount to admitting that some patriots are unhappy with Putin, says political analyst Abbas Gallyamov. According to him, Girkin can become an expression of opposition between the "majority of patriots" and the "minority of Westerners" in Russia: "It is possible to lead to an undesirable situation by the Kremlin - patriots against Putin.
Under Russian law, Strelkov can be denied registration as a presidential candidate for very official reasons - because of his conviction. Political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin believes that the authorities will not miss this chance.
Boris Nadezhdin - the candidate of "Citizens' Initiative"
Boris Nadezhdin, a former State Duma deputy from the Union of Right-Wing Forces and currently elected to the Dolgoprudny City Council, was the first to announce his intention to fight for the presidency in the upcoming elections. The 60-year-old politician was backed by the Citizens' Initiative party, which also nominated Ksenia Sobchak for the 2018 presidential election. That would simplify things for Nadezhdin, who would only need 100,000 signatures to nominate him, instead of the 300,000 needed if he wasn't a party candidate.
Nadezhdin himself stressed that his participation in the presidential elections will increase voter turnout and make it more difficult to falsify the results of the vote. The politician estimates his electorate at 15-20% of the Russian population - those who define the current course of the authorities as "wrong". In a recent survey by the Center for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM), conducted in October 2023, 11% of respondents described Russia's current course as "wrong" and 10% - as "rather wrong". On his website, Nadezhdin advocates for "peace", "freedom of speech", "cooperation", "civil society" and "fair elections".
Independent candidate Ekaterina Duntsova
Similar political views have 40-year-old Ekaterina Duntsova, who also plans to participate in the presidential race next year. She is a journalist, from 2019 to 2022 she was a member of the Rzev City Council. In November 2023, she was summoned to explain to the local prosecutor's office her attitude towards the "special military operation" (the war Russia is waging against Ukraine).
Duntsova is nominating herself, which means she will need an initiative group of 500 people, as well as 300,000 signatures in at least 40 regions of the Russian Federation. The journalist estimates her potential electorate at 10-15% of the country's population.
The chance for Nadezhdin to be allowed to participate in the elections is quite large, says Dmitry Oreshkin. But the final outcome of the election is beyond doubt: Nadezhdin, as well as other "ritual figures", will be able to collect 2-3% of the vote, and "the skyscraper of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will rise majestically above them." Duntsova, according to Oreshkin, may be difficult for the regime to control.
Political analyst Abbas Gallyamov also believes authorities could allow a controlled anti-war candidate along with other representatives of the systemic opposition. This will allow the regime to triumphantly win and gain an "extra dose of legitimacy." Because it is difficult to hold the system of power only with repression, the political scientist is convinced.
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Elections in Russia
Donetsk People's Republic
Igor Strelkov Girkin