Vladimir Putin accepted his party’s nomination to be its presidential candidate. No surprise in this. But this time round, he goes before the voters without a claim to legitimacy. Russian politics have entered a new phase. The public has awakened to his corruption and stumbling economic policies. They do not want him back.
In his last election, Putin would have won big even without his evisceration of liberal opponents. Oil prices were high. He could compare the relative stability of his years with the chaos of the Yeltsin years. Now, Putin’s public-opinion favorables are falling and his negatives are rising. His administration tried to suppress videos of the unprecedented booing he received at an appearance at a martial arts competition, but cell-phone videos of his embarrassment have gone viral on the internet.
Putin’s reelection is inevitable. He will not allow any legitimate challenger on the ballot. His only opponents will be the communist and nationalist parties, whose leaders both have negative popularity ratings.
Russia will join a large number of countries with an unpopular leader who could not be elected in a fair race. Putin’s third term will be for six years, and he is eligible for another six. He will become Russia’s Mubarak and well understands this fact.