Vladimir Putin won, what's next?
Voter turnout at the presidential election in Russia on 18 March 2018 was 67.5%. Vladimir Putin won with 76.7% of all votes.
The Russian Central Elections Commission reported 55.2 million votes for Putin, a historical high.
There is a simple explanation for Putin’s overwhelming support. It did not appear overnight. It has been amassed over years and decades of propaganda and brutal suppression. That is why when the Russian voters were told to vote – they obeyed because it was safe to do so. 30 million people chose to ignore the calls, though – a welcome sign that propaganda and suppression are not pervasive.
What is Russia and the world to expect now?
“Russia is surrounded by enemies” was the slogan at the heart of Putin’s campaign. And it was used to justify all the healthcare and education budget cuts and the rise in police and special services financing. This policy is going to be continued.
The Russian Federal Security Service reported having uncovered 397 foreign spies last year.
Vladimir Putin’s opponents should brace for more violence and political pressure to come.
Internet – which is vital for free communication – is likely to become the primary target. Right before the election, the presidential aide for Internet said Russia was technically ready to leave the world web.
“The country is heading towards an abyss”, Grigory Yavlinsky, one of the opposition candidates, said after the election.
Creatively, cheap food and clothes were sold, and nurses were taking blood pressure for free at polling stations. Video Reuters
The election in Russia was not competitive, the OSCE monitors said.
The list of the world leaders who congratulated Vladimir Putin right after the election also talks volumes. Chairman Si Tsingping of China who has recently acquired virtually unrestricted power in his country, turned out to be the only one among the major nation leaders to come up with congratulations. Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan was the first among the South Caucasus leaders.
Vladimir Putin is likely to find himself facing growing isolation for the following reasons:
• Sanctions for the annexation of Crimea and meddling in Donbass will stay
• New US sanctions for meddling in the presidential elections are to come
• New sanctions for downing MH-17, Syria and use of chemical weapons in Britain are highly likely.
“Further economic stagnation, international isolation and the need to keep the regime safe after 2024 are the three negative factors to be taken into account in the new political season in Russia”, Kirill Rogov, one of the leading political experts, wrote. “The question is whether the elites and the people will agree to follow the present leadership along the military path”.
“The present Russian regime is both impotent and ambitious, posing danger as it is ready to reject all taboos and rules” Liliya Shevtsova, the leading expert on international issues, wrote.
Putin’s international policy is likely to become more aggressive as he will strive to demonstrate to his supporters that he is the one to safeguard their security. He will not dare to challenge the US or the EU directly, but the former Soviet republics and the South Caucasus nations should beware of his plans.