Russia’s 2024 presidential election will take place on March 17 with Vladimir Putin widely expected to run and win another term in office.
Members of the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a decree setting the date.
Although Putin, 71, hasn’t yet announced his intention to run again he is widely expected to do so in the coming days now that the date has been set. He will likely run as an independent.
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The former intelligence officer remains hugely popular in Russia. His support spiked with the onset of the war against Ukraine, and he currently has an approval rating of 82%, according to Statista, a global data platform. A failed rebellion last summer by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin also did not damage his approval ratings.
In 2021, Putin signed into law a change to the country’s constitution that will allow him to run for two more six-year terms, granting him the chance to remain in power until 2036.
He has held continuous positions as president or prime minister since 1999. He has been president since 2012, with his previous stint as president running from 2000 to 2008.
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Having established tight control over Russia’s political system, Putin’s victory in the March election is all but assured.
It is unclear who exactly will challenge Putin at the ballot box, although some people have already signaled they will put their names forward.
Igor Girkin, who led pro-Russia fighters in eastern Ukraine in 2014, recently said he wants to challenge Putin. Girkin is an outspoken pro-war blogger who has fiercely criticized Russia’s military strategy in Ukraine and is currently in jail awaiting trial for extremism, which he denies.
Others who have announced plans to run include former lawmaker Boris Nadezhdin, who holds a seat on a municipal council in the Moscow region, and Yekaterina Duntsova, a journalist and lawyer from the Tver region north of Moscow, who once was a member of a local legislature.
Imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Thursday urged his supporters to vote for anyone but Putin.
“Putin views this election as a referendum on approval of his actions,” Navalny said in an online statement.
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“A referendum on approval of the war. Let’s disrupt his plans and make it happen so that no one on March 17 is interested in the rigged result, but that all of Russia saw and understood: the will of the majority is that Putin must leave.”
Putin is in the Middle East this week where he has met with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to shore up support from the major oil producers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.