Following the results of the presidential election in the Russian Federation on 18 March, 2018, Vladimir Putin gained a convincing victory. Voters’ turnout for the election was 67.5% of all registered, or 73 million 629 thousand people, 76.7% voted for V.Putin.
Were there falsifications at the election? Of course, yes, both new methods and already approved ones. The mechanism of the "mobile voter", new for the electoral legislation of the Russian Federation, was used - voting at the place of actual residence without an absentee certificate, which gave about 4 million votes. The traditional way of "throwing in" filled ballot papers was used, it was especially active at polling stations abroad. This is indicated by statistical distribution - the turnout of Russians abroad was 98%, for Putin - 84.7%, which was 9% higher than the average Russian rate.
The analysis of the "electoral anomalies" of the presidential election conducted by Sergey Shpilkin showed that about 10 million ballot papers were "thrown in" for V. Putin. If it were not for that obvious falsification, voters’ turnout would have been 62%, and for V.Putin - 67%. Thus, Vladimir Putin would have won in the first round, even without falsification of the results.
Putin's victory at the presidential election is the result of efficient imperial mobilization of the Russian population. The support of voters was provided mainly by propaganda. The main idea of the Russian state propaganda is hostility to Russia of its external environment and the need to fight for national interests.
The most important conclusion that can be drawn from the election results is that the effect of imperial mobilization in the Russian Federation has been made long-term. Russians will not "sober up" in the short term. This conclusion is the basis for forecasting the course of the newly elected president.
V. Putin's strategy will not be significantly adjusted after the election. It is necessary to highlight the main characteristics of this strategy:
- "pinpoint" reprisals against people suspected by authorities in disloyalty or may become centres of consolidation of dissatisfied;
- active state propaganda of the imperial orientation using the technologies of "post-truth";
- imitation in the most important spheres: economic development, democracy, dialogue with civil society, scientific and technological progress;
- categorical and demonstrative refusal to comply with any demands of participants in civil protest actions, suppression of such actions by force.
At the same time, it is possible to expect minor alterations in the strategy of the regime:
- strengthening authoritarian tendencies and cult of Vladimir Putin. Demonstrative evidences of the strengthening of cult of the leader in Russia are numerous apologies of officials to V. Putin after the fire with human casualties in Kemerovo;
- Reorganization of law enforcement structures of the Russian Federation in the direction of strengthening the powers and capabilities of the Federal Security Service.
The main task of the Russian regime after V. Putin's election is to find a mechanism for preserving his influence after formal withdrawal in 6 years from the post of the president. This model is being developed. For the accumulation of practical experience, e.g., one of Russia's closest allies, Armenia, is used. Constitutional reform in Armenia, launched in 2015, meets not only the interests of former Armenian President S. Sargsyan, but also V.Putin. The Armenian model of retaining the president in power, which can no longer be elected as the president, contains elements relevant to Vladimir Putin: high concentration of power in the hands of the prime minister, his relative independence from the parliament. It is important that the Armenian armed forces are subordinated to the government as a result of Sargsyan's reforms, and the Prime Minister becomes the commander-in-chief during the war. Other models of Vladimir Putin's influence, in addition to the "Prime Minister's", are also likely to be considered. For instance, the strengthening of the powers of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and the appointment of V. Putin Secretary of the Council.
If current political trends continue, Putin's presidential term, which has already begun, will be a period of preparation for the preservation of his powers. This idea will determine both the domestic and foreign policy of the Russian Federation.
* About the author:
Mikhail Savva – Doctor, Political Science, Chairman of the Board, Sova Expert Group.
The article was prepared on the basis of an address at the International Conference "Presidential Elections in Russia: Conclusions and Forecasts