Russian presidential election to be held on 4 March

Russia has set 4 March as the date for the presidential election that is due to sweep Vladimir Putin back into the Kremlin.

The Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, officially set the date in a constitutionally required vote on Friday. The move allows parties to formally put forward their candidates and the ruling United Russia party will nominate Putin at a congress on Sunday.

Russians have reacted with increasing disdain to Putin’s return – something that, under new constitutional amendments, could keep him in power until 2024. His public booing at a Moscow stadium last week broke open the illusion of his sky-high popularity.

Putin is clearly concerned. He failed to show up at an event at the stadium the next day, and issued a tough statement at the closing session of the lower house of parliament this week, warning that political opposition would lead to instability.

“We have a great many uncertainties and risks ahead and in a storm, in a gale, in crisis conditions, it is very important that the whole team works in a co-ordinated way so that the ship does not capsize,” Putin told the Duma.

Deputies from the Communist and Just Russia parties refused to stand when Putin entered the chamber, a sign of disrespect long unseen in the country’s normally compliant parliament.

Putin is still certain to win the 4 March vote – any political opposition has been sidelined or co-opted during his 11-year tenure as Russia’s most powerful politician.

A Levada Centre poll released on Friday showed that if the vote was held this coming Sunday, just 31% of respondents would vote for Putin – a higher number than for any other candidate, but far from the majority.

More uncertain is the fate of Putin’s party, United Russia, which will face a test in parliamentary elections on 4 December. Its popularity has plummeted amid declining living standards, increasing charges of corruption and political stagnation. Opposition activists have already begun gathering evidence of falsifications, as the party seeks to maintain its grip on power.

Another Levada Centre poll found that 34% of Russians think the parliamentary vote will be a “real fight for power”, versus 51% who see it as an “imitation”.

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