After protests questioning the authenticity of the election in 2011, changes totalling roughly half a billion dollars to the Russian electoral process were put in place. A live webcam feed of all polling stations shown to as many as half a million independent observers was put in place; election fraudsters from Dagestan to Moscow were caught, but the West was shocked at how Putin still won. However, a look at the candidates may give better context.
A typical Russian oligarch, and one of the most famous figures in Russia’s business and politics. Prokhorov was seen as the free market platform in the election, also pushing for greater EU integration and the scrapping of conscription. Like other candidates, a focus on corruption prevention was made. Currently the third richest man in Russia, he was presented the Order of Friendship by Putin in 2006 for his contribution to economic growth.
One of the world’s most recognisable politicians, Putin remains the most popular figure in Russia since 1999. His name associated with Russia’s political and economic rise, the incumbent is seen favourably by the polls. However, according to a poll by the Public Opinion Foundation last year, 21% are against him staying in power. Strongly criticised by the West on account of a hardline image, core policies include banning smoking and pushing towards environmental issues (endorsed by environmentalist parties in the Duma), ‘luxury’ tax, economic growth, extension of welfare, and army modernisation.
Leader of Russia’s second largest party and the State Duma Deputy, Zyuganov is recognisable and arguably more established in politics than Putin. He has been in every presidential election since 1996, and has come second every time. As a hardline communist and with the support of the Communist party, his policies include nationalisation of strategic industries and natural resources, progressive income taxes and more state economic control, new labour legislation and free housing for low income families, and increasing military role.
In 2004, Mironov was quoted as saying “We all want Vladimir Putin to be the next president”, 2012 he stated publicly that “Putin must go.” Calling his social democratic party (Fair Russia) the only real opposition, he stands for the limit of Presidential tenure and is against over representation in power bodies. Additionally referenda would be used extensively, judges elected, social reforms, and temporary re-allocation of a part of the military budget to be used to help solve social problems.
A highly controversial figure in Russian politics, the current founder and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia is a political veteran of eccentric tendencies. Violent and vocal behaviour in debates is coupled with outlandish suggestions (such as the exile of all Chinese in Russia or the taking back of Alaska from the US through use of nuclear weapons). Policies include expulsion of migrants, tougher stance against NATO, to revive industry and agriculture, and to ban extremism. Whilst the candidate does have popular appeal, analysts on RT regard voting for him a protest vote.