President Vladimir Putin was elected for another term as Russia’s leader on March 18. This was an especially significant date to renew Putin’s presidency, as it marked the four-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Though Putin had been noticeably absent from his campaign—only appearing to personally hand his candidacy forms to the Central Election Commission, speak at a single campaign rally, and cast his vote on March 18—he won with 76.69 percent of the vote. The president, who also served as prime minister from 2008 to 2012, only announced his candidacy in December 2017, and he actively refrained from attending any presidential debates throughout this election cycle.
The first runner-up in the vote was the leader of the Communist Party, Pavel Grudinin, with roughly 11.77 percent of the vote. Ultra-nationalist candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky won 5.6 percent of the vote—similar to the 6 percent he won in 2012. One of the more controversial candidates was Ksenia Sobchak, a former reality TV star and the daughter of the former-mayor of St. Petersburg (a close friend to Putin), who only secured 1.68 percent of the vote. Her platform, in addition to rumors surrounding her connection to the Kremlin, made her campaign notable, if unsuccessful. Political activist and one of Putin’s biggest critics, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running due to previous criminal charges and instead called for a boycott of the election.
Voter turnout remained a key issue of this year’s election, as attempts by the Kremlin to reach participation of 70 percent of the population were threatened by voter complacency and apathy. While Navalny has captured the attention of many young Russians seeking change, a large portion of young adults who have lived their whole lives under Putin are disillusioned with the democratic system and remain actively apolitical. While voter turnout was not 70 percent, the Central Election Commission reported 67.74 percent participation in order to seal Putin’s definitive six-year mandate, an improvement from participation in the 2012 election.
While many Russians and the international community certainly expected the election result, the future of Russian leadership remains unclear. Following a constitutional change to extend the presidential term to six years in 2012, Putin’s next moves are a closely kept secret. Although he has shown no sign of further consolidating power, he has yet to point to a clear successor to take his place in the 2024 election.