Russia set to hold presidential election in March 2024

Vladimir Putin is widely expected to run again after constitutional reforms he orchestrated in 2020 to help extend his term.

The Russian flag
A Russian flag atop a hammer and sickle at the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow, Russia [File: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo]

Russia’s upper house of parliament has voted to set the date for the country’s next presidential election for March 17, 2024, potentially moving President Vladimir Putin closer to a fifth term in office.

Members of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a decree setting the date.

“With this decision, we are effectively launching the start of the election campaign,” said Valentina Matviyenko, head of the chamber.

For the first time, residents of the parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson regions of Ukraine annexed by Russia would take part in the vote, she added.

“By choosing a head of state together, we fully share the common responsibility and common destiny of our fatherland,” Matviyenko said.

Although Putin, 71, has not yet announced his intention to run again, he is widely expected to do so in the coming days now that the date has been set.

Under constitutional reforms he orchestrated in 2020, he is eligible to seek two more six-year terms after his current one expires next year.

At the time, Russians voted overwhelmingly in favour of the constitutional changes, but critics said the outcome was falsified on an industrial scale.

Possible candidates

Having established tight control over Russia’s political system, Putin’s victory is all but assured if he runs.

Prominent critics who could challenge him on the ballot are either in jail or living abroad, and most independent media have been banned.

Neither the costly, drawn-out military campaign in Ukraine that began in February 2022, nor a failed rebellion in June by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin appear to have affected his high approval ratings reported by independent pollsters.

The March election will likely clear the way for him to remain in power at least until 2030. And if he contests and wins another election after that, he could rule until the age of 83.

Who would challenge him on the ballot remains unclear.

Two people have announced plans to run: former lawmaker Boris Nadezhdin, who holds a seat on a municipal council in the Moscow region, and Yekaterina Duntsova, a journalist and lawyer from the Tver region north of Moscow, who was once a member of a local legislature.

For both, getting on the ballot could be an uphill battle. Unless one of five political parties that have seats in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, nominates them as their candidate, they would have to gather tens of thousands of signatures across multiple regions.

According to Russian election laws, candidates put forward by a party that is not represented in the State Duma or at least a third of regional legislatures have to submit at least 100,000 signatures from 40 or more regions. Those running independently of any party would need a minimum of 300,000 signatures from 40 regions or more.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies