Russia elections to come, result already known

Russia’s presidential election, or what could be the first round of it, takes place on March 4, but although the poll is still to come, the final result appears to be known: Vladimir Putin will be Russia’s new President.

Following a general election in December, where opposition protests spread through the main cities alongside persistent charges of electoral fraud, Putin is clearly relishing the presidential poll battle.

At a rally held on the Day of the Defenders of the Fatherland in Moscow, he stepped up his rhetoric, evoking iconic Russian poets and military history, and pledging to defend the country against “outside interference”. Earlier he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Among Moscow’s increasingly sophisticated, social media savvy voters, already deeply sceptical of the All Russia party win in December,such rampant patriotism was not universally admired. Many felt uneasy at the emotive manipulation of both past history and present politics. But Putin’s victory seems assured.

“Vladimir Putin’s election as president is inevitable,” says Marcus Svedberg, chief economist at East Capital. “The big question is what policy he will pursue and how demonstrators on the streets of Moscow will react to the election results.”

That is what investors will be focusing on as well. But there is the poll to secure first.

For some, a loss for Putin in the first round may be interpreted as sign of weakness. For others, it would indicate the election has been conducted fairly. Either way, mass demonstrations which have focused on the endemic corruption in Russian society are expected to continue until promised reforms start to be delivered.

That ongoing pressure, says Svedburg, should encourage international investors. Whilst Putin has presented an ambitious reform agenda, “it is not clear whether he will put that policy into practice”. If he does, it will be “extremely positive for the economy, market and all Russians”.

Ivan Tchakarov, chief economist, Russia & CIS at Renaissance Capital, says that while Putin’s return seems certain, he may have an incentive to win only in a second-round run-off. “That would, at least to some extent, mitigate the concerns of those accusing him of a lack of democratic credentials, but it would also prove that in fair and open elections, Putin does not have any strong competition.”

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