Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to be nominated as a presidential candidate in November

Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to be nominated as a presidential candidate in November
Russian president Vladimir Putin /
By Ben Aris in Berlin September 12, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to be nominated as a presidential candidate in November. The procedure for nominating the current president as a candidate for a new term will be held in two stages, Kommersant reports, citing sources in the Kremlin where closed meetings on the upcoming presidential elections in 2018 have been held.

The first stage is scheduled for November, when Putin is expected to agree in principle to nominate himself for a new term. The legitimacy of his candidature will be formalised as a response to citizens' request for his nomination – a favourite mechanism left over from the Soviet era.

Suitable events for this “spontaneous” request include the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression on October 30; the Community Forum, which is traditionally organised by the Public Chamber and has a final meeting this year on November 2-3; the Day of National Unity on November 4; and the anniversary of the October Revolution on November 7.

The actual election will most likely be scheduled for March 18 next year — the anniversary of the signing of the agreement on the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation.

The second stage presupposes the legal nomination of Putin as a self-nominated candidate with the collection of signatures in support of his candidature gathered in the shortest possible time so that the official election campaign is as tight and short as possible.

Russia’s budget has already been adjusted from a war budget to an election budget, where defence spending was cut and social spending increased by 10% — far more than any other item. These budget amendments have to be submitted to the Duma and approved by the start of October.

According to one version, United Russia will participate in the collection of signatures, but exclusively for Putin in a personal capacity as a member of the party. Putin is currently officially unaligned with any party.

The Kremlin has almost finalised its plan for the reelection campaign, Kommersant reports. The Kremlin is worried as its previous 70/70 strategy (70% turnout, 70% vote for Putin) is clearly not going to work. Russia held important municipal and regional elections on September 10 that are a wet run for the 2018 presidential elections. The Kremlin-backed United Russia swept the board in the 16 regional mandates that were up for grabs, but the elections can be considered a defeat for the Kremlin as they were marred by a record low turnout.

There has not been an official announcement yet on Putin’s membership of United Russia, but few doubt that Russia's leader, in power since 2000, will run on a United Russia ticket and be elected for his fourth non-consecutive six year term in 2018. Putin faces almost no opposition: his approval rating ticked up to 83% in July, according to the latest Levada Center poll. Likewise, another poll showed the number of Russians that think the country is going in the right direction is at a two year high.

Putin’s only real opposition, in the sense of a bid from outside the system, is from anti-corruption blogger and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has said that he will stand despite being barred from running by the Central Election Commission. However, Navalny is currently polling at about 2%. At best Navalny’s candidature will be a preparation for the following election in 2024, designed to give him the legitimacy he currently lacks in the population’s eye.