The Candidate List for Russia's Presidential Election By Nathan Richmond
The Election Process
The stage is set for the first round of the Russian presidential election to be held on March 18, 2018. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the popular vote, a second round runoff between the two top first-round finishers will be held three weeks later, on April 8, 2018.
At least 70 people notified the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation (CEC) of their intent to run for president. In the end, however, most did not follow through by filing the necessary documentation, or they did so and later withdrew, or their candidacies were rejected by the Commission.
In order to run for president in Russia one must: be at least 35 years old, must have resided permanently in Russia for the past 10 years, must have Russian citizenship only (no dual citizenship holders allowed), and must not have a criminal record. After meeting those qualifications, candidates had to notify the CEC of their intent to run by January 1, 2018, had to complete their registration documentation by January 7th, and had to submit their petitions (signatures of voters) by January 31st. Then the CEC had until February 10th to verify that the signatures were valid.
After meeting those qualifications, candidates had to notify the CEC of their intent to run by January 1, 2018, had to complete their registration documentation by January 7th, and had to submit their petitions (signatures of voters) by January 31st. Then the CEC had until February 10th to verify that the signatures were valid.
A candidate running as an independent needed 300,000 signatures (down from 1,000,000 needed in 2012) with no more than 7500 from any federal region and had to create a political party with at least 500 verified members. A candidate nominated by an existing political party not represented in the State Duma needed 100,000 signatures. The CEC validated the candidacy of six candidates, including President Putin, who submitted signature petitions.
Candidates representing political parties with representatives already in the State Duma did not need to submit voter petitions. Two candidates, Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Pavel Grudinin of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) qualified in this way. Several other political parties with representatives in the State Duma had the opportunity to run their own candidate without submitting signatures, but they declined to do so, indicating their support for President Putin.
The CEC certified the following list of eight candidates who will appear on the ballot: Pavel Grudinin, Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Ksenia Sobchak, Grigory Yavlinsky, Boris Titov, Sergei Baburin, and Maxim Suraikin. In contrast, only 5 candidates were on the ballot in 2012.
Sergei Baburin, 59, is a lawyer by training, an Afghan war veteran, the former vice-speaker of the State Duma, and outspoken critic and opponent of former President Boris Yeltsin. He is the candidate of the nationalist, Russian All-People's Union whose political program includes ousting of the Medvedev Government, constitutional reform, economic protectionism and diversification of the Russian economy away from dependence on energy exports, and the rapid integration of Crimea into Russia.
Pavel Grudinin, 57, is an engineer by training and the head of the Lenin State Farm near Moscow. He also has a degree in law and is a former representative elected to the Moscow regional parliament. He is the candidate of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the successor party to the former ruling Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). He has been criticized by many politicians for being a wealthy businessman and not a "real" communist.
Boris Titov, 57, is the candidate of the pro-business Party of Growth. Titov currently serves as President Putin's Commissioner for Entrepreneurs' Rights, an anti-corruption position. He has a degree in Economics and was previously an entrepreneur in the petrochemical industry and later the head of a vineyard. His political program includes bureaucratic and economic reforms to promote the growth of small businesses, diversification from the energy dependent economy, and various anti-corruption measures.
Maxim Suraikin, 39, is the candidate of Communists of Russia, a party that broke away from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) in 2012. Previously a leading member of the CPRF, Suraikin wants to bring back the USSR, re-nationalize many parts of the Russian economy, and end the moratorium on the death penalty. He is an unapologetic "Leninist-Stalinist."
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, 71, is the long-time head of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the first official opposition party allowed in the USSR on the eve of its collapse. There is some documentary evidence that the creation of the LDP was a project of the CPSU and the KGB to create the appearance of an independent opposition party.
Despite its misleading name, the LDP is a hard-right, nationalist party and Zhirinovsky, who is a lawyer by training, has been a long-time member of the State Duma and the LDP's perennial presidential candidate. This is his 6th run for the presidency. A flamboyant politician well-known for his outrageous comments and occasional fistfights in the State Duma, Zhirinovsky has advocated forcefully retaking the territories of former Soviet Union, reclaiming Alaska, and promising free vodka and creating a police state if elected.
Grigory Yavlinsky, 65, is the leader of the liberal Yabloko Party, founded in 1995. He is currently an Economics professor in Moscow. Like Vladimir Zhirinovsky, he is a long-time politician familiar to Russian voters. Briefly an economic advisor to President Gorbachev, he was a persistent critic of President Yeltsin for Russia’s economic problems in the early post-Soviet years. Yavlinsky has twice previously run for president in 1996 and 2000. He submitted two million nominating signatures for the 2012 presidential election but was nevertheless disqualified by the CEC.
Originally from the western Ukraine city of L’viv, Yavlinsky opposes Russia's annexation of Crimea and is campaigning on a platform of peacefully resolving the Ukrainian conflict and implementing liberal economic reforms.
Ksenia Sobchak, 36, is well-known to Russians as a journalist and entertainer. She is the daughter of the late Anatoly Sobchak, the first freely-elected mayor of St. Petersburg who was Vladimir Putin’s political mentor. Thus, her relationship with President Putin is a long one. While she is critical of some of Putin’s policies, for example the annexation of Crimea, part of her political platform is to not personally criticize President Putin.
President Vladimir Putin, 65, is attempting to win his fourth term as Russia’s president. The former head of the FSB (previously KGB) and the last Prime Minister under President Boris Yeltsin, Putin was the Acting President, briefly, when Boris Yeltsin resigned. Putin was elected to a four-year term of his own as President in March 2000 and re-elected in 2004. Constitutionally prevented from a third consecutive term in 2008, Putin again served as Prime Minister, this time for his protégé, Dmitri Medvedev, who was President from 2008 to 2012. In 2012 Putin won a third term (now six years).
Putin is genuinely and widely popular in Russia as the antidote to the Yeltsin administration. He has recentralized power in Russia, managed the economy sufficiently despite low oil prices and western economic sanctions, and returned Russia to a prominent role on the world stage by annexing Crimea, intervening militarily in Syria, participating in the Iran nuclear deal, and meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. There is no doubt that President Putin will be re-elected. The only question is by what margin.
Not on the Ballot
There is one name notable for his exclusion from the ballot: Alexei Navalny. Navalny, 41, is a crusading anti-corruption politician and lawyer best known for organizing numerous anti-Putin demonstrations. Navalny has been convicted of embezzlement (which he claims was a politically-motivated, trumped –up charge), and of organizing ‘‘unauthorized’’ demonstrations. His convictions, according to the CEC, disqualify him from running for the presidency.
Nathan Richmond is Professor of Government at Utica College