The Russian Reign Continues with Putin’s Reelection
A sweeping victory was achieved by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his recent reelection this past Sunday, March 18th, 2018. The win does not come as a surprise to many who understand the corrupt and biased nature of Russian elections, and who more specifically understand the notorious role that President Putin has played in prescribing the path to his own success. Due to the orchestration of the Russian government, Putin continues to serve at its stern as the longest reigning Russian leader since the time of Joseph Stalin.
Putin now marks his fourth term holding the Russian Presidency and his fifth time managing the helm of Russian affairs, after previously serving a brief period as the country’s Prime Minister. According to exit poll citations from the All-Russian Public Opinion Center, Putin claimed a whopping 73.9% of the total vote. While initially striking, this result of the is widely considered to be farcical and steeped in voter fraud. Putin’s time spent at the forefront of Russian leadership has paved the way for his habitual success, cultivating his leadership through an authoritarian campaign embedded with tactics of violence, fear, intimidation, and most of all disinformation.
Steadily ridding himself over the years of oligarchal competitors and outlets threatening him with free speech, Putin has managed to propagandize the Russian media and enlist almost complete subjugation to his political program. State-run media and television networks relay much of the news that Russian citizens receive. Exemplifying this restricted stream of information in the lead up to the election, Putin’s propagandistic pursuits reached outrageous levels in a clearly staged and televised political debate. The charade was outfitted with so-called ‘prop’ candidates-- official opponents in the Presidential race deemed to be agents of Putin’s own campaign-- who merely served to sensationalize themselves by throwing drinks and hurling derogatory remarks, in order to draw favorable attention back on Putin himself.
Moreover, the rampant activity of Russian online “trolls” played a significant role in shaping the reelection victory of President Putin. Widely known for its activities in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign, the work of the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) worked to solicit the compliance of the Russian public in the recent election. Its comprehensive goal was to stamp out any concerns over voting manipulation or corruption, to induce voter turnout at the polls, and to direct any and all allegations of fraud and meddling at the West. Amidst the prevalent stuffing of ballot boxes and the bribery and coercion of voters to come out to the polls, the IRA established a digital front for Putin’s popular recruitment.
Amongst other tactics, disinformation and fraudulent activity characterized the nature of Putin’s new win and his consecration at the fore of Russian politics for the next six years. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) outlined the illegitimate basis for the elections and cited the various methods in which the Russian government violated many commitments made to the Organization. Citing a litany of claims, the OSCE noted that a lack of “transparency,” a missing fervor for “genuine competition,” and individual detainment for, “[questioning] the legitimacy of the election,” all were signals of the crude and unfounded victory achieved by Vladimir Putin in retaining his spot at the Presidency.
After exhibiting a willingness to go to the lengths of forging his own victory, it remains to be seen what this reelection means in terms of Russia and Putin’s protracted foreign policy. Following his win, Putin was quoted saying that he held no intention to “accelerate an arms race,” supposedly with the West, premising a focus on diplomatic solutions as the primary source of political conduct instead. However, after the latest unveiling of the Russian nuclear agenda in Putin’s Presidential Address, Putin’s most recent statements resound with hollow and reasonable doubt as to the future development of Russian strategy towards the West.