On March 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin won a landslide reelection victory. This will ensure his continued rule over Russia for another six years, despite his strained relations with the West being on a hostile trajectory.
Vladimir Putin is a Russian politician serving as President of the Russian Federation since May 2012. He previously held the position from 2000 until 2008. He was Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 until 2000, and again from 2008 until 2012. During his second term as Prime Minister, he was the Chairman of the ruling United Russia party.
For 16 years, Putin was a KGB foreign intelligence officer. He was ranked Lieutenant Colonel in 1991 before entering politics in Saint Petersburg. He moved to Moscow in 1996 and joined President Boris Yeltsin's administration. After Yeltsin’s resignation, Putin became Acting President in December 1999. During the 2000 presidential elections, Putin won by a 53% to 30% margin, defeating Communist Party of the Russian Federation opponent, Gennady Zyuganov. He was reelected President in 2004 with 72% of the vote.
During his first term as President, the Russian economy grew for eight straight years, and GDP measured in purchasing power increased by 72%. The growth resulted from the commodities boom of the 2000s, increasing oil prices, and favourable economic and fiscal policies. Due to constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was not eligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term in 2008. However, Dmitry Medvedev won the 2008 elections and appointed Putin as Prime Minister. In September 2011, presidential terms were revised from four to six years, and hence Putin announced he would obtain a third term as president.
In March 2012, he won the presidential election with 64% of the vote. In 2015, Russia’s GDP was seen shrinking by 3.7% resulting from declining oil prices and the imposing of international sanctions. Nevertheless, the Russian economy rebounded in 2016 with 0.3% GDP growth and is officially out of recession.
The most recent victory will take Putin’s political dominance of Russia to nearly 25 years, until 2024, second only to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who ruled for longer. His agenda for the new term aims to strengthen Russia’s defences against the West and to raise the domestic standard of living.
The outcome of the election was a greatly expected one. Having counted just over 70% of the votes, the Central Election Commission announced that Putin, who has dominated the political landscape for the last 18 years, had won 75.9% of the vote. Putin’s closest challenge was Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, who received around 13%, while nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky secured around 6%. Opposition leader Navalny is expected to call for anti-Putin protests challenging the victory. A senior opposition politician warned that protesters may take to the streets if prompted.
Putin’s aggressive language increased before the election, in a speech addressing the nation, where he revealed that new nuclear weapons could hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield.
Allies praised Putin’s victory, but western sanctions on Russia introduced over Crimea and Moscow’s backing of a pro-Russian separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine remain in place. These have damaged the Russian economy, which only rebounded last year after a prolonged downturn. Britain and Russia are also involved in a diplomatic dispute over the spy poisoning incident, and the US is seeking new sanctions on Moscow over allegations that it interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.
Our assessment is that Putin’s victory in the elections depicts a vote of confidence that Russian people have in him and all that he has achieved to bring the country out of tough conditions during his multiple terms as President. Although Russia’s Central Election Commission recognized that there were some irregularities in the elections, the commission dismissed wider criticism and declared the overall result as legitimate.
We feel that the United States and Britain cannot influence national elections and that the result was a vindication of Putin’s tough stance taken last week toward the West. Although there is little agreement surrounding top policymakers and economic strategy for his new term, how long Putin wants to stay in power is currently uncertain.